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Year of the Golden Pig

By: Marc Pollack Posted: January-01-2008 in
Marc Pollack

Year of the Golden Pig, an exhibition of paintings, sculptures and prints, by Sasha Constable and Vincent Broustet opened Wednesday at Java Café and Gallery.

Ms Constable is a long time expatriate to Cambodia. She is well known for her stone sculpture and mono-prints, but this time she steps out and makes a break from her past work. The theme is maternity, well not quite, it's actually pregnancy, a theme she ascribes to the auspiciousness of birth during the Year of the Golden Pig. She has made plaster casts and paintings of pregnant bellies. Can you think of a more interesting shape? In the past she has frequently looked at forms from a classical, cubist point of view. In this case she has literally looked at the form from the outside and the inside, reducing the shape to molded planes of color: gold on the outside, red on the inside or black with letters declaring, "it's a boy!" They are freestanding, organic forms, so one could almost forget that they are specific people.

Madame Constable also attaches her bellies to the wall in 37 Weeks where they give the feeling of an intimacy with an unknown stranger. This works because of the abstract qualities of the shapes. And they have an added touch of elegance because they give a reddish glow, reflected from the inside, where, although the viewer cannot see it, they have been painted red. Sasha makes no attempt to hide the plaster gauze that she uses for the molds and it adds to the image of a swaddled form. In this triptych she finally wraps gauze over the form and around the support to give a veil to the sculpture. Is there any piece of clothing more feminine than a veil?

Ms Constable also exhibits two paintings and two large drawings. All four owe their strength to a dramatic contrast of light and dark, black and white. The acrylic paintings use dry pastel to add bright color. Feeding could be a study for the sculptures as the subject is a stomach enceinte, transparent and open for all to see, reminiscent of Leonardo's famous drawings. Like the sculptures, it is a glimpse into the intimate made public. Sasha also exhibits sculptures and prints that are much closer to work she has shown previously: good and interesting work but without the edge of the other pieces.

Vincent Broustet exhibits large abstract paintings and a sense of humor. In his Too Good To Be True series he builds his paintings with layers of brown, green and blue-grey washes of various thicknesses. It appears that sometimes he adds a layer only to remove it and leave an indication of its former presence: the marks of a rag or brush, the canvas slightly stained. Sometimes it is difficult to realize that they are landscape paintings. I would venture to imagine that he looks into the traditional Cambodian theme of the endless void and the turning of the milk sea. And when he is ready, he smiles and stamps them with a golden mini-trident, symbol of Vishnu, or a golden pig. Bravo!

Mr. Broustet also exhibits what are actually color-field paintings of brilliant yellows and oranges. His competence as a figurative painter is downplayed and subordinate to his vibrant colors which are even more powerful because they are on large canvases. Subtly hidden within the fields are images: a (golden?) pig having a splinter removed or hanging to be butchered. They are titled John I'm Only Dancing. At least someone still has a sense of humor even if it's at the pig's expense. They may sound gory but they aren't at all. In fact, somehow they have a real sense of Cambodian reality, abstract surrealism and even a reference to the classical subject matter of butchered animals.

He also has large human figures in The Two of Us painted with the same colors as the color fields. This deeply integrates the figures into the painting and preserves the paintings as tableaus of color while at the same time giving a subtly contrasting image that does not overshadow the overall effect.

Once again, Java has shown a commitment to bringing high quality, stimulating art work to Phnom Penh.


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