Drop Accumulation No. 5 – S.E.A. Focus

Drop Accumulation No. 5

Sopheap Pich

Medium: Aluminium, soot on wood

Size of work: 114 x 116 x 4 cm, 14 kg

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About the Artist

In 1979, when the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia led to the ousting of the Khmer Rouge regime, he fled with his family to Thailand, spending four years in refugee camps before immigrating to the United States. Memories of traveling vast distances on foot and witnessing the devastation of war — broken bodies, ravaged landscapes, abandoned artillery, and ruined buildings — underpin his sculptural practice. While Pich studied painting, earning a BFA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (1995), and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1999), he turned his attention to sculpture after returning to Cambodia in 2002. In 2003, he established the artist group Saklapel, and launched the acclaimed exhibition Visual Art Open (2005) in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. Pich also cofounded the alternative organization Sala Artspace, Phnom Penh (2006–07), where he taught an interdisciplinary course to a group of young Cambodian artists.

In 2005, Pich gave up painting altogether in favor of making three-dimensional objects, in a process that poetically simulates reconstruction. He draws his materials, primarily rattan and bamboo, wood, and stone from local growers and suppliers. The resultant biomorphic structures suggest scaffolding for as-yet unbuilt forms, their spare, organic geometries appealing to a Post-Minimal aesthetic. In addition to employing bodily references, the artist draws inspiration from landscape (Delta and Flow, both 2007) and architecture (Compound, 2011, Bricks Before Palaces, 2016). In more elaborate constructions from the late 2000s, Pich salvaged detritus from the trash heaps of developing Phnom Penh, giving works like Junk Nutrients (2009) a mottled, rag-tag look. In a series of wall reliefs from 2012, he returns to the format of painting, rendering hybridized, abstract compositions in materials derived from his sculptural practice by infusing burlap canvases (rice sacks) with Cambodian soils for pigments, sealing them with beeswax and damar resin, and setting them in three-dimensional bamboo grids. Since the start of the pandemic, he has been preoccupied with repurposed aluminum of pots and pans that he collects and buys from local recycling depots. Using this material, he has made large-scale works such as wall reliefs and standing sculptures, and life-size tree sculptures. In his recent wall reliefs, he has been exploring works of different scales that deals with color and the absence of color echoing his root as a painter, while also continuing to make three-dimensional objects.

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Artist Statement

In this series of new works in aluminum on plywood, Sopheap Pich is using the bottom part of cooking pots and kettles exclusively. These are used items bought from local recycling depots before they get crushed into cubes ready to be transported to foundries. In his studio, items are individually cut by hand, preserving as best possible the original qualities of these cook wares. They are then arranged intuitively in a composition until a certain result is achieved. After that they are cut and fitted into a kind of mosaic pattern, interlocking like a puzzle and then nailed onto plywood backing.

This group is different from Pich’s other wall reliefs in that he doesn’t use bamboo armature as support so all that is seen are circular shapes interlocking together without horizontal and vertical lines.

The title refers to images of rain falling on a wet surface the artist had seen in some old photographs. What makes this group different from other aluminum reliefs is the question of what kinds of visual impact can be achieved by this very simple gesture. It is something that he can only answer after the act of making them.