Friday, December 5, 2014

Khmer Rocks!

Ros Serey Sothea
10" x 8", oil on canvas, 2014

The criteria to evaluate the quality of a painting are embedded in the process of making it. It always involves some kind of surprise element. The trouble with many paintings starts when there is no such surprise happening. Then there usually is a strong temptation to evoke it. Enforced and calculated surprises cease to be surprises and it's better not to demand anything from your painting other than just painting the thing you set out to paint in the first place. It is difficult enough to just paint a picture without enforcing any idea or expectation. A picture without the reference of 30 years experience, 30 years of learning the history of art, 30 years of evaluating art is nearly impossible to make (but I try).

Ros Serey Sothea is a Khmer Cambodian singer of romantic (and later also patriotic) songs. Her early recordings are traditional ballads and later work consists of popular, even psychedelic, songs. In her short career, she died in 1977 at the age of twenty-nine, she recorded hundreds of songs. I only know one, and it's a good one. I'm not even so sure if it is her singing on that recording distributed by All other information on that record, besides Vol. 78, is in Cambodian script but a picture on the sleeve is unmistakably Ros Seresothea. The website Bodega Pop did an item on it and shared with me and the rest of the world this gem that is known by Gary of Bodega Pop and me only as track 4.

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