Rosewood Phnom Penh presents “MASKerade,” a thought-provoking group exhibition that explores the concept of masks and identity – literally and symbolically, physically and spiritually – at the hotel’s 35th floor Art Gallery from January 11 to May 12, 2021. Open to the public and co-created by art curator Nat Di Maggio, owner of TRIBE Art Gallery, an independent modern art gallery in Siem Reap, MASKerade brings together nine Khmer and international visual artists specializing in widely varying genres.

Collectively, the artists offer a timely, creative response to the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as an insightful reflection on more than one thousand years of mask history. Though perhaps never as polarizing or topical as during the pandemic, masks have long played many roles in our society from religious rituals to medical practices and protest statements, and appear in folklore, costumes, disguises, and more.

Michael Parker, managing director of Rosewood Phnom Penh says, “Rosewood Phnom Penh takes great pride in sharing the works, talents, and ideas of Khmer artists with a wide, international audience, As an artistic response to the current COVID-19 situation, the exhibition promises a refreshing confluence of ideas, tackling a seemingly mundane item – masks – in profound and wholly original ways.” 

Traversing a wide range of modern art genres, MASKerade showcases several pieces of Cambodian artwork, such as raw, intimate fine art photography by Phirom Styles. A tuk-tuk driver turned artist, Kak Sok Phirom hopes guests can see his country through Khmer’s eyes. “I photograph with my heart, my emotion; when I feel that connection to my subject, I take the picture,” says the artist.

Guests will also discover hyper-detailed paintings by Cambodian artist Nak Noy, who imbues each creation with messages of female empowerment, as well as Hour Soben’s colorful, almost psychedelic compositions inspired by Angkor’s motifs and sculptures. Kampot-born Teang Borin, who goes by Din, focuses on capturing classical dancers of the Cambodian Royal Ballet and the floating Apsara, a type of female spirit that features prominently in ancient Buddhist literature, paintings, and performances.

Among the international talents on display, London-based photographer Eve creates intentionally ambiguous images, inviting viewers to form their own interpretations and narratives. Meanwhile, American multidisciplinary artist Jinx Davis explores the ancient art of tattoos with a series of mixed media photography that looks for the “face behind the faces.” In addition, Welsh street artist Charles Uzzell Edwards, a.k.a. PURE EVIL, offers a macabre take on celebrity portraiture; Irish painter and urban artist Fin Dac exhibits vibrant modern Apsara, crafted using stunning stenciling techniques; and British artist Carne Griffiths transforms calligraphy ink into ethereal human forms, laced with natural and geometric motifs. In their own way, each artist approaches the central theme of masks from a totally different perspective, ensuring a fascinating and moving exhibition.

Nat di Maggio of TRIBE Art Gallery, says “We are thrilled to present MASKerade with Rosewood Phnom Penh, All of its featured works offer distinctive ways of examining our layered, complex relationship with masks, particularly in light of the past year. It’s an inspiring art exhibition, which ultimately encourages the audience to ask themselves:  ‘Who am I?’”

The exhibition pays tribute to TRIBE co-founder, Terry McIlkenny, who passed away unexpectedly in July 2020. In Mcllkenny’s honour, MASKerade marks the launch of the Terry Mcllkenny Education Fund, offering a full scholarship to two new emerging artists in the Visual Arts Degree at Phare Ponleu Selpak (meaning “The Brightness of the Arts”), a non-profit visual and performing arts school located in Battambang, Cambodia. Donations can be made by contacting TRIBE Art Gallery directly.

Photo by: Supplied