Sopheap Pich, Born 1971, Cambodia
Morning Glory, 2017
"Morning Glory", a version of which is also in the collection of the Guggenheim in New York, is the monumental representation of a weedy plant that grows all over Cambodia. The flower-shaped plant has particularly poignant connotations: it was widely consumed during Khmer Rouge rule, when the population suffered from famine and starvation and had nothing else to eat.
"I often wonder why we still eat it," says Pich, "It reminds us not so much of sadness anymore, maybe. But certainly when you think of morning glory, you never forget that time."
The artist’s preferred materials are bamboo and rattan, which grow all over the Cambodia but are usually used to produce handicrafts, not art. His assistants shave the bamboo and rattan into ribbon-like strips that they help weave and tie into the shapes the artist conceives. Pich treats this material as line, using it to make a drawing in space.
Why choose that material? "What it gave me was freedom," the artist explains. "I didn't have to worry about color, I didn't have to worry about art history, I didn't even have to worry about sculpture. It was just a whole new territory."
Born in Battambang, Cambodia in 1971, Pich grew up during the terrifying rule of the Khmer Rouge, in which an estimated two million people lost their lives. When he was 13, his family emigrated to the U.S. He went on to receive his MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1999 before returning to Cambodia in 2002 to reconnect with his roots and open a studio in Phnom Penh
Pich is considered to be Cambodia’s most important international artist His work is included in the main exhibition “Viva Arte Viva” at the 2017 Venice Biennale.
In 2014, Pich created a 40-foot-long installation made of 1,200 bamboo strips in the atrium of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, inviting visitors to touch and interact with the installation. Pich has also had solo exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2013) and at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle (2011-12). He was selected to participate in the prestigious Documenta 13 (2012) in Kassel, Germany.
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