During COP 2021 Tramway’s main gallery will present a new work for children and young people by Phnom Penh, Cambodia-based artist Khvay Samnang.
Cambodian artist Khvay Samnang (b. 1982) is a multimedia storyteller whose work is located at the nexus of creativity and social justice. Combining poetry, ritual and spiritual beliefs Samnang creates narratives of resistance in order to address urgent environmental issues in his home country Cambodia and globally, such as deforestation, land grabbing, the vanishing of traditions and forced population displacement. His works are often informed by the ancestral mythologies and environmental practices of the indigenous Chong people of Cambodia with whom he collaborates. The Chong people worship the spirits of animals living in the forest and their culture celebrates the cooperative and spiritual relationships between species and the rain forest. Their belief system is founded on animism – the attribution of a living soul to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena. Samnang explores these spiritual ecologies in order to address the challenges faced by indigenous communities in contemporary times who are losing their lands and traditions due to deforestation and unchecked development.
In this new film work to be exhibited at Tramway, Khvay takes inspiration from Reamker, the Cambodian version of Ramayana, an epic poem and philosophical allegory dating back to the 7th century. Created especially for younger audiences to learn about the challenges of climate change, the film takes us on a journey through the landscapes of Cambodia as it follows The Monkey on his quest to save the dying forest and its surrounding environment. The story starts after he meets and falls in love with The Fish, and depicts the struggles he must overcome after the loss of his home in the forest. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the problems of the forest and its surrounding fields and rivers are linked to the irresponsible behaviours of the Fire Dragon.
Khvay Samnang was born in 1982 in Svay Rieng, Cambodia. He graduated from the Painting Department at the Royal University of Fine Art in Phnom Penh, where he lives and works today. Solo exhibitions include A Forest of Spirit, Nova Contemporary Art Gallery, Bangkok, Thailand; Khvay Samnang “Preah Kunlong” Capsule 10: Khvay Samnang, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany (2019); Where is my land?, Sa Sa Art Projects, Phnom Penh (2017); Bloom Projects Exchange Series, Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara, USA (2016); The Pacific Project: Khvay Samnang, Orange County Museum of Art, CA, USA; Footprints of Yantra Man, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany, Enjoy My Sand, Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, Japan; Rubber Man, Jeu de Paume, Paris, CAPC Bordeaux, France (2015); Human Nature, Tomio Koyama Gallery, Singapore (2014); and Newspaper Man, SA SA BASSAC, Phnom Penh (2012).
His group exhibitions include Frieze (Live Performance), London, United Kingdom; An Opera for Animals, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China, In One Drop of Water, Art Gallery of New South Wave, Sydney, Australia; Borderlines, Talbot Rice Gallery, The University of Edinburgh, UK; Documenting Change: Our Climate (Past, Present, Future, CU Art Museum, The University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado, USA (2019); Post Nature (Taipei Biennial 2018), Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan; Constructing Mythologies, Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong; Animals Biennale of Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia (2018); Fleeting Territories, Kunstraum Niederosterreich, Vienna, Austria; DOCUMENTA 14, Athens, Greece / Kassel, Germany.
Calling for Rain was originally commissioned for the Gallery Children’s Biennale 2021, National Gallery Singapore