The Graff Gaff

Khmer Wings: Dynamic Graffiti and Street Art Exhibition by Peap & Lisa, Bed Supperclub, Nov 24-Dec 8

Straight out of Cambodia, urban street artists Peap Tarr and Lisa Mam will turn the White Room of Bed Supperclub into an eye-catching canvas in Khmer Wings: Dynamic Graffiti and Street Art Exhibition by Peap & Lisa. Guru talks to the duo on the eve of the event.

HOW DID YOU COME TOGETHER AS A GRAFFITI DUO?

Peap: We got together through mutual friends. We actually met at a Nokia Mobile Phone launch, of all places. We just chatted and Lisa had seen my work before but never knew who painted it. She loved painting and had a different style to other local Khmer artists who just see art as an avenue to survive by painting what they think tourist or locals like to buy. Lisa has a real flair and the first time we painted together was actually live on stage in Phnom Penh at Chenla theatre. We painted while a French hip hop duo, 12Me & Raph, performed. We just clicked and Lisa has become my yang and I her yin.

HOW DOES YOUR YIN YANG RELATIONSHIP SHOW IN YOUR WORK?

Lisa: Peap's art is very strong and fiery and there is a lot of movement. It's wild, but when we started to paint more together I brought out a more gentle side to Peap by adding a feminine touch. I love to paint beautiful women that are adorned with my own vision of modern and ancient Khmer designs. It is my idea of beauty and since Peap is half Khmer

[and half New Zealander], I was able to add the artistic feel of a female Khmer girl to our work.

Urban street artists Peap Tarr and Lisa Mam

WHAT'S THE GRAFFITI AND STREET ART SCENE LIKE IN CAMBODIA?

Peap: At the moment, graffiti and street art are still very new. There have been some foreigners passing through and putting a little throw up or tag here and there. There was one Swiss-Cambodian graff writer called Tones who did some dope pieces around Phnom Penh before I arrived. I feel when I came back to Phnom Penh things started to change by putting myself out there. I hope people don't take that the wrong way and think I'm just blowing myself up and trying to paint a picture like I'm some kind of catalyst of the graff movement in Cambodia. What I'm saying is, I just came back to Cambodia for various reasons and started doing my thing, like I had always done back in New Zealand, but I went all out. Since then, other graff artist connected to me and the crew I'm part of, Army of Snipers. I'm hoping for things to grow in Phnom Penh and all over Cambodia so that a real original style of Cambodian graff and street art will emerge. That's why linking up with Lisa has been a true blessing to me. Lisa is the exact person that I'm seeing this dream coming into realization because Lisa is a local and a female Khmer. From small things big things grow. I want to see Cambodia back on the map - not for war, poverty and crime but for arts, culture and creativity. This is my dream.

WHERE DO YOU NORMALLY PAINT?

Lisa: We actually don't get much time to paint public walls these days because we are so busy with commissioned jobs, which have included walls. But if you want to paint a public wall and want it to last, we generally have to seek permission. Phnom Penh is the kind of city where everyone knows each other. We have to do everything legally.

Collaborative piece by Peap Tarr and Lisa Mam

WHAT'S YOUR SIGNATURE CREATIVE CAMBODIAN TWIST?

Peap: My signature twist is that I draw inspiration from my two cultures - Cambodian and New Zealander. I like to use a lot of black in my work. In a way it's a play on the "all blacks"!

[laughs] Not really, but it's very strong and bold and I feel that my two cultures are small but proud and possess true strength of character and mind. I like to use a lot of symbolic styles and patterns from both traditional Khmer and Maori and Polynesian arts mixed with some Celtic

[motifs] since I also have some Irish blood. My work is a visual explanation of who I am. Also, both Cambodia and New Zealand have very unique forms of tattoo art. Traditional Khmer tattoos are known for their magic, where as New Zealand Polynesian tattoos are very cultural and have a lot to do with becoming an adult and being connected to your past. I also weave these practices into my own signature style.

Lisa: I like to recreate my own version of the traditional Khmer style but also add my ladies who are adorned with our traditional clothes but done in a modern style.

HAVE YOU CONSIDERED COLLABORATING WITH THAI ARTISTS?

Peap: Yes, totally. I would love to and in actual fact have been trying to find the right time to paint with some of the Thai graff/street artist whose works I love, like P7, Alex Mardi

[aka Alex Face], Chip 7 and AMP. They are super great artist in Thailand. I also believe the more we work together the more barriers will come down. I feel art can erase any misconceptions both nations have about each other. I am all about peace and unity through a creative process. We are all one people and our cultures are very much alike. We should just all get down, paint, have a beer and share a good laugh.

Lisa: I would love to collaborate with my neighbours in Thailand. The idea truly excites me and I look forward to when the time comes. I think all artists in Southeast Asia should get together at an annual event. It would make the movement stronger.

Khmer Wings: Dynamic Graffiti and Street Art Exhibition by Peap & Lisa will be on display from Nov 24-Dec 8 at Bed Supperclub (26 Sukhumvit Soi 11, 02-651-3537, info@bedsupperclub.com). The duo will paint live at the opening night on Nov 24, 7pm, as an art-inspired dinner is served (three-course B1,200++, four-course B1,650++).

About the author

columnist
Writer: Pimchanok Phungbun Na Ayudhya
Position: Writer