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titled ‘NAW', signed ‘S PICH' and dated ‘2010' (lower left)
rattan, wire and dye
54 x 61 x 14 cm. (21 1/4 x 24 x 5 1/2 in.)
Executed in 2010
Private Collection, Asia

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Jessica Hsu
Jessica Hsu

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Lot Essay

Sopheap Pich is one of Cambodia's leading contemporary artists, known for his organic geometric structures using the most utilitarian of materials – rattan, bamboo, metal wire – to transform the simple and mundane into sublime, moving pieces of art. His works are tactile and inviting with voluptuous forms, showcasing his ability to merge a rich past, a hopeful future and the vibrant culture of his country.
Pich's early sculptural works engaged with issues of time, memory and the human anatomy, often relating to Cambodia's history – particularly his own childhood experience of life during the Khmer Rouge – and the country's culture, both its ancient traditions and contemporary struggles. Having relocated to the U.S. from Battambang, Cambodia when he was he teenager, memories of Pich's early youth, as well as his longing for home as a member of a Cambodian diaspora, manifest themselves in his artistic choice of medium and subject. Rattan and bamboo, natural materials so common to Southeast Asia, conjure a lingering sense of nostalgia, bringing forth recollections of the artist as a boy, watching his relatives make fish traps, traditional weaving baskets and other utilitarian objects out of the same materials he now works with.
While Pich's mesmerising works have generated widespread acclaim with an accessible international visual art language – his sculptures are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (where he was the first Southeast Asian artist to have a solo show), the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Centre Pompidou, to name a few – the artist still intends for them to resonate with the Cambodian public.
Naw (Lot 132) is a sculptural depiction of a consonant in the Khmer alphabet, part of a series executed by the artist in 2009. Paying homage to his culture, as well as to the permanence of language as a significant marker of identity untouched by war and violence, Pich provides a window into contemporary thought in Cambodia, reflecting the beauty and importance of local art as a means to consider the past, present and future of the country.
In Naw, the sculpted latticework of bamboo and rattan held together by wire offers a moment of contemplation to the observer. Though beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, working with both materials is a long and arduous process that Pich undertakes in order to create his pieces, a reflection perhaps, of his people's embattled path of suffering in the recent decades. Indeed, one can sense the detail and human hand in every aspect of his work, and it is through Pich's intricate practice that his art moves across artistic forms and cultures, touching both a local and global audience alike and carving out a poignant narrative of its journey and process of coming into being.

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