With Sothea Thang

Honeymoon by Sothea Thang

FA4M Mag interviews Sothea Thang.

FA4M: Why are you an artist?

ST: In September 2009, I felt depressed mainly because of my job working with architects. And in my personal life as well. To fight my melancholy, I started to paint.  And that was satisfying by itself.  And then came the encouragement and support of my friends. Shortly afterward, the owner of a new gay hotel-resort in Siem Reap – where I had been involved through my employer with the architecture project – saw my first painting and commissioned me to paint six others for the décor of the resort. That’s when I decided it might be time for me to study and improve and discover myself through my painting.  I made the risky decision to resign from my job and to concentrate full-time on my painting, although I had some freelance architectural projects.  In the summer of 2010, less than a year, the Meta House (the German-Cambodian cultural center) exhibited my first foray into painting with a show called “Happy Together”.

FA4M: How do you select the subjects of your work?

ST: At that time, I was in love. I let my imagination wander without limit and was not afraid of what people would think. I surprised them, I think.  My friends did not recognize me and could not believe that I was the creator of such paintings. On the other hand, they still encouraged me and their support gave me the drive to continue on this path. And that is how I came by the subject of my work.

FA4M: Who are your favorite artists?

ST: Until I had the chance to travel to France in the summer of 2009, I did not know anything about western artists. I was exactly naïve.  I had never read about this or seen any example.  As with many Cambodians, my education and culture were basic.  When I went to museums in Paris, I discovered this artistic world, this rich artistic history. Now, of course, I know Michelangelo, Picasso, Miro and many others.

FA4M: How do you describe your work?

ST: I don’t know how to describe my work. I just do it.

FA4M: Much of your work is figurative. Do you work from models, photographs, sketches?  Or is it all imagination?

ST: I do not work with the models. I work with my imagination. Sometimes I work from photographs, either as reference material or to spark a concept. Then I will develop it as far as I can until I am satisfied.

FA4M: What is the most satisfying moment of your production process?

ST:  Of course, as part of the whole concept, there is the design and the choice of colors and the texture too. I am satisfied when the thing follows the concept, when it follows the plan of my imagination. However, sometimes an accident happens during the process and the result surprises me, sometimes delights me, and I will redirect my intention, I will change my plan.  That moment when an accident changes my plan, alters my intention, that is the most satisfying moment for me.

FA4M: What are some of the challenges of your process?

ST:  As a self-taught artist, I have made my own experiments, in particular with the mixture of colors and above all the construction of texture. And my challenge has been with my materials.  However, now, my treatment of my materials – the cracks, the trickles, the crackled drips – has become almost a signature of my work, a kind of trademark of my emerging art.

FA4M: You describe the process of painting a little like an architect: concept, plan, execution.  How much do you think your training and experience as an architect influences the way you create art?

ST: I studied for six years in the department of architecture and when i graduated (2007), I worked as an architect for three years with a French company in Phnom Penh (2007-2010). I started to paint in 2009. Many people have commented that when they see my work, it feels a little like architecture design, remarking on the proportion of balance, the structure of form, the purity of line, and elements of texture. In the absence of an art education, I am sure I have borrowed both process and elements of design from my experience in architecture.

FA4M: There are so many artists in history – Henri Rousseau and Paul Gaugin, for example – who have studied the rich history of art and then tried deliberately to forget it and create art like a child creates art, from a more naïve or primitive perspective. But you almost have that experience the other way around. As you become more and more exposed to art history and art training, how do you expect it might influence the way you make your art?

ST: Honestly, I did not expect to go so far with the way that I make my art. I only know that I enjoy what I do and sharing it. I am genuinely thankful to people who are touched by my art. And however it influences my intentions or my process, it pushes me to discover the artistic world and artistic history.

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Fine Art for Men is an international online gallery showcasing the male nude in fine art as well as gay art and homoerotic art while including contemporary artists and collectible vintage works.