inspiration: sopheap pich


I was planning to save this news and write about it after the fact but I am just not that patient!

Before I tell you my wonderful news, however, I want to share with you these images of one of my favourite artists, Cambodian sculptor Sopheap Pich. To me, his sculptures contain so many contradictions; at once fragile and virile, natural and manufactured, built and grown, flowing and grid-like. Each piece resembles something familiar but they are ultimately abstract and really beautiful.

Pich stumbled across his technique by accident when he was making an armature for a scultpure which he planned to cover with paper labels and his teacher admired his unfinished work. He never looked back.

In his Phnom Penh studio, he builds (tying the bamboo rather than weaving as such) large-scale sculptures that draw on the history of his native country, daily life and own personal experiences and surroundings. His installations range from the very organic (quite literally often resembling lungs, hearts etc.) to the architectural, commenting on the urbanisation taking place in his homeland

This is ‘Compound’ an installation by Sopheap Pich for the Singapore Biennale 2011. Michael Upchurch from the Seattle Times wrote a review of the exhibition. This is an excerpt:

“The piece seems fancifully “architectural” at first. But on closer scrutiny, it’s more chilling. Its rectangles feel like claustrophobic cages. Its tapering domes, when viewed from a sidelong angle, resemble undetonated bombs. As for its folksy construction materials, they tap directly into a Cambodian landscape where bombs and bodies from the Khmer Rouge era can still be found.”

(These pieces are big y’all!)

His sculptures are made from the same “folksy” materials used by his ancestors to trap fish and make baskets. Split  boiled and shaped in rattan or bamboo, fishing wire is meticulously wound at hundreds of intersections – the wire made from metal recycled from left over war materials that were carted to Vietnam and then brought back as reusable materials.  It’s very reassuring to me to learn that he has a team working for him to help create these monsters in his warehouse studio.

And so to my news… in just over a week I am going to be in Siem Reap and then Phnom Penh, Cambodia meeting with designers who have worked with WWF Rattan projects to learn more about how sustainably harvested rattan is turned into products and exploring source of this amazing material. We are travelling by boat from there through the mighty Mekong delta into Vietnam and sneaking in bit of island life. Fingers and toes crossed I can track down Sopheap Pich or at the very least see some of his creations in person. Too good.

To be continued…..


Images:  Tyler Rollins Fine Art

6 thoughts on “inspiration: sopheap pich

  1. Dear Harriet, I have just seen your amazing work on The Design Files, which mentioned that you have a class coming up in Melbourne in November which I MUST attend. I can’t find any references or links to the course on the blog or your website. PLEASE tell me that you have two places free (one also for my husband) and we will be ecstatic! I’m so worried places will fill up fast. Please let me know. Maybe you have others planned for Melbourne? Regards, Rachel xx

  2. Dear Harriet How totally wonderful for you … I adored my trip to Cambodia some years ago especially the boat rides on the Mekong and Siem Reap wow . I had another basket workshop last Friday in a nearby friends studio. We all had a ball but needed you for discipline and wisdom as we all made messy stuff !!! Love to you and safe travels Are Mat and kids going too ? Xxxx Jude

    Sent from my iPhone

    1. Just Mat and I are going Judy! So it’s very exciting and also a little bit terrifying because I haven’t tested my mothering instincts to such extent yet… they will be with grand and great-grand mothers the whole time so all will be well. Glad to hear you are still weaving – love to see some pics. We will be at CH for two weeks over xmas so hope to catch up then. xxx

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