Finding Artist Peter Klashorst and his S-21 Exhibition has been a pivotal moment in my early research, his work has helped greatly in understanding my own thinkings behind my work. Klashorst is a Dutch painter who has spent a year in Phnom Penh before showing an Exhibition in the S-21 prison itself and like me he has chosen the photographs of the victims as his subject matter.
The above images are a sample of his work. There were 50 final paintings in all, all spray painted images of the subjects in the photographs. I can quite easily see some of the same faces coming up in his work that I myself have depicted, looking into the eyes of the faces I myself have poured over is unsettling, I can feel the hairs stand on the back of my neck every time a familiar face crops up like a ghost, so is my relationship with the faces now after months of working with them. Interestingly the artist has similar reasons and hopes for creating and displaying the paintings. He mentions this in an article in the New York Times;
“People in the West often believe that these events of brutal oppression only happened in the past. But even right now, in the so-called civilised western world, innocent people from poor countries are put behind bars. Authorities in the rich countries arrest them, take their pictures, interrogate them and prepare dossiers, just to deport them as illegal immigrants and send them back after months in jail”
I have found this incredibly assuring as an artist, some of my concerns about depicting the victims of the Khmer Rouge is that I am using their plight in an unethical way, perhaps to create something sensationalist or controversial. This cannot be further from the truth, in fact I now feel that I have maybe been holding myself back in order to tip toe around possible controversy in my resent work and in any work I may do in the future.
The Paintings themselves are also interesting as, in using spray paint, Klashorst has instantly given the old images a new contemporary reimagining. This gives a new audience something to relate to, it brings a new way of portraying his intent to show new audiences something awful that we cannot forget. This is exactly what my intent is in depicting the same images.