Page 1

Lotus The Blue

Arts Magazine

Helen Guek Yee Mei Cosimo Miorelli Ramli Ibrahim Meera Das Chao Harn Kae

Issue 5 Winter 2016

Calvin Chua Stéphane Delaprée Sharon Chin Subha N Nevidita Chang Yoong Chia 1

welcome to

Lotus The Blue

Arts Magazine



Winter 2016

inside.... 6 Editorial Thoughts on the current issue

by the Founding Editor


Art Expo 2016 Malaysia

28 Being & Belonging Helen Guek Yee Mei

40 Cosimo Miorelli Apsara

46 Ramli Ibrahim In images

54 Amorous Delight Indian dance

58 Meera Das In images

66 The Conquering Chao Harn Kae’s sculptures


78 12 Promising Malaysian Artists Maestro Fine Art Gallery inaugural exhibition 96 The Joy of Living Calvin Chua at G13 Gallery 106 A Small NGO Bringing Big Benefits Colors of Cambodia

130 Joy De Vivre Stéphane Delaprée, artist in Cambodia

140 Art Talk Korean artist Kim IL Tae’s works at Affin Bank Kuala Lumpur

144 Deep Water Sequential art by Sharon Chin

A Friend in an Odd City

152 A Friend in an Odd City Poem by Subha N Nevidita

153 Lunar Peaks Sequential art by Chang Yoong Chia 160 In Search of Eggs Benedict Food Talk


The Blue Lotus Arts Magazine Summer 2016 Editor: Martin A Bradley

email: martinabradley@gmail.com TBL TM Published December 2016 cover: From Amorous Delights

Lotus The Blue

Arts Magazine

Welcome to

The Blue Lotus Arts Magazine.

As I write the US of A celebrates Thanksgiving and the rest of us have just left Deepavali behind and head towards Christmas. It is a time for celebrations and for celebrating, and The Blue Lotus brings a joyful mixture of the arts to you, our faithful readers. In this issue our reach extends from America to Cambodia, Indian, Korea and, of course Malaysia. From sizzling dance routines to petite porcelains, rambunctious abstract expressionisms to iconic smiles. Enjoy The Blue Lotus is a platform for international cooperation, aiming to bring creative Asia to the world, and the creative world to Asia. Now read on

Martin Bradley (Founding Editor)

The Blue Lotus Arts Magazine is an entirely free and non-associated publication concerned with bringing Asia to the world, and the world to Asia



art expo plus

Big Head, Jesús Curiá


malaysia 2016

Malaysian artist Honey Khor


I Throw My Head Back To The Sky # 3, Nik Mohd Hazri.


Arjuna Sosro Bahu, R. Sumantri MS


Reflection of Beauty, Aung Thiha


Reflection of Beauty 2, Aung Thiha


Transformation (installation) Teo Seng Hong



Henry Butcher Auctions



Indian Old Man 2, Gan Tee Sheng


Upside Down, Ismail Awi


White-Bed-Sheet-Warmth, Cheong Tuck Wai



Dutch Square II, Jeffrey Wandly


Kapitan Keling Mosque, Jeffrey Wandly

Dutch Square III, Jeffrey Wandly


Sankuriang Love Story, Dadi Setiyadi



Madonna of C.21st, Boonhlue Yangsauy


Krishna, P. Gnana




Our Stories


The exhibition is an exploration of identity, specifically Malaysian Chinese. It is drawn from my personal experience as a Chinese in the pluralistic society of Malaysia. It is a combination of personal experience and family story, with the collective history of the Malaysia as backdrop. I have an interest in the underlying complexities of human existence, beneath the surface of the skin and features. It started during my study in Australia. During that time, I encountered Chinese from various countries. I experienced similarities and divergences in many ways during our interaction. That had piqued my interest in cultural identity with the realisation that, even though we shared similar physical traits and speak a similar language, but we are different. For me is not due to biological difference but what is beneath the surface of our features - our experience with other fellow Malaysians; the feeling of home defined by smell, sound, sight, taste and feel. Due to this keen awareness of the differences through our interaction, I started to explore my perception of identity: What determine


Our Stories

family history. The other part is an attempt to capture and present an epitome of Malaysian Chinese experiences based on age, dialect group, locality and personal experience. For the personal part, I draw my references from different aspects; including old and new records from personal and family history. Most of the archived photos are from my family’s collection, including those from relatives and friends, group photos taken in different places as background during different occasions. There are also new records from my own collection that I took over the years across the country, among many are the records of places with texture and environment, like markets, houses and buildings, artefact and signboard, daily scenes and many more; the mixture of private and collective memories. Others included historical photos from archives or documentations that I found in newspapers, magazines and websites. For the other part,my approach was to do an interview of their experiences Our Stories


Our Stories

a person? What are the different dimensions of a person? I also started to question myself and others: what is culture and what makes us different within this “same culture”? I begin to recognise that, in addition to my “Chinese-ness”, I’m conscious of my “Malaysian -ness”. There is a sense of this thought rooted deep inside me. I started to explore this awareness during my time in Australia and continue this exploration during my Master degree study in Malaysia. The shape and form of this being is an imaginative intersected shape when we overlap and intersect the map of China and Malaysia, a shape which can recognizes neither Malaysia nor China. It is a shape overlap by daily experience, characterised by crosscultural experience, defined by personal choices and preferences with evolving tendencies. There are two parts that are featured in this exhibition. One, is drawn from my personal and


in order to gain an insight of them so as to help me generate the appropriate portraiture of their experiences. In the exhibition is a series of questions that is part of the exhibits. The visitors are invited to immerse themselves and participate in it by examining their own memories and history and aspiration and to write them down, and eventually to form a growing list of individual experiences. This exhibition has some elements of historical, sociocultural, and a bit of commentary in it, however, my focus is more on the experiential as express visually and I hope my work is able to engage the viewer in a deeper understanding of their own experiences. As we celebrate the 59th anniversary of our nation's independence in this month of August, we ponder the meaning of being a nation and being a Malaysian. In contrast to definitions of nation that identify specific cultural, political, religious, linguistic or ethnic bonds, Cynthia Enloe define a nation as “a collection of people who have come to believe that they have been shaped by a common past and are destined to share a common


Our Stories



future�. But in actual situation of the political and cultural landscapes of Malaysia today, we all experience invisible boundaries and division in one way or another. Instead of promoting the common experiences and collective history we are being defines and divide according to differences, namely ethnicity, religion, language and culture. Therefore, this exhibition is a way to commemorate and celebrate the experience we have shared and to recognise within the submerged and accumulated traces, the being and belonging as a person, as a Malaysian in this place we called home. Helen Guek Yee Mei

Our Stories


Michael Foo See Chiam, 79 years old, Hakka




Giovanni Maier, Giorgio Mirto, GUP Alcaro, Loris Vescovo, Giorgio Pacorig,writer Stefano Benni and actors Gigio Alberti and Roberto Zibetti. CZM has performed live and exhibited his works in art festivals (Stazione di Topolò, A Sud di Nessun Nord – Asti, Pordenone Legge, Art on Snow Gastein), film festivals (Kino OTOK, Cà Foscari Short FF, Piccolo Festival di Animazione-Udine), comic/Illustration conventions and exhibitions (Le Nuvole di De André – Genova, ComicInvasionBerlin, Signs of Dexterity – Berlin, Mediterranean Salt – Berlin), art galleries (BLU Gallery – Bologna, Cultuurcentrum Strombeek, Plateau Gallery – Berlin, HB55 Kunstfabrik Berlin, ), museums (SMO – Slovensko Multimedialno Okno, Staatliches Naturhistorisches Museum Braunschweig) and theaters (Teatro Verdi Pordenone, Teatro Gobetti Torino, Teatro Franco Parenti Milano, Teatro Revoltella Trieste, Teatro Villa Torlonia Roma) in Italy, Germany, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and Belgium. He often performs for private clients and organizations (Lions Club Italia, Berlinische Galerie) and has held workshops in Italian High schools and at the University Visoka Sola za Umetnost in Nova Gorica. CZM’s illustrated books are published in Italy by Editori del Grifo.


Cosimo Miorelli Cosimo Miorelli • CZM (Biella,Italy,1986) is a Berlin-based visual artist. He explores and mixes diverse graphic storytelling media: illustration, live-painting, animation, comics and traditional painting. His research currently focuses on live performances and multimedia storytelling, including theatre productions and animated videos for documentaries. CZM has collaborated with musicians such as RAF, Fabrizio Nocci, Stefano Bechini, Saba Anglana, Badara Seck, Vincenzo Vasi, Ivan Bert,

Apsara 2


Triloka background 1


Triloka background 2





Ganjam 2016 Ramli Ibrahim & Geethika Sree


Ramli Ibrahim in images

Photographs by S. Magendran and A. Prathap

Sutra Foundation: 12 Persiaran Titiwangsa 3, 53200 Kuala Lumpur


Amorous Delight 2016 Meera Das & Ramli Ibrahim



Ganjam 2016



Quintessence 2014 Ramli Ibrahim with MPO in L'apre Midi d'une Faune



Amorous Delight 2016

Amorous I had tickets for the final night (of the four night spree) of Ramli Ibrahim’s dance presentation, Amorous Delight; Amarushataka, by his Sutra Dance Company, at Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPaC). Ramli and I had first met a few weeks previously, at Sutra House, during a gathering of the Malaysian Art Institute alumni. I thought him charming. A vision in his South Asian clothing, and a good advert for an energetic life. I had long been an admirer of his performances, his zest for life and his unwavering dedication to dance, and all that that entails. I was delighted to finally meet him, though briefly, for a talk amidst the noise and furore of the art school’s celebration, which Ramil had hosted. Later, I was invited to attend his latest production and performance, Amorous Delight, hence the tickets. It had tried to rain, but nothing was going to spoil that enchanted evening. The Sutra Dance Company dance performance of Amorous Delight gave homage to five verses (1, 4, 8, 40 and 74) from a collection of 100 Indian Sanskrit quatrains titled Amarushataka, by the 7th c. Indian poet Amaru. Some of the later palm leaf manuscripts (podi) were illustrated by an anonymous Master of Sharanakula (19th Century, Orissa, India). Dr Dinanath Pathy, along with Eberhard Fischer, had recently written 54

on that very subject, for ARTIBUS ASIAE, publishers at Museum Rietburg, Zurich. Dr Pathy, resplendently elegant, was present at that night’s performance. A selection of illustrations taken from that 19th Century manuscript were projected as a backdrop to that DPaC Amorous Delight performance of the Orissa (Indian) dance known as Odissi. There are many classical Indian dances. The oldest text of Nyāya śāstra of Bharata Muni (Sanskrit) represents a detailed stagecraft manual, elucidating and observing how various dance styles; Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, and Mohiniyattam etc should look and be performed. The Nyāya śāstra suggests that there is “no axiom, no concept in the universe that cannot be expressed by the body’, so spake Ramil Ibrahim in a recent ‘Ted Talk. The Nyāya śāstra introduced the theory of ‘bhava' and ‘rasa’, vital to Indian aesthetics. ‘Bhava' meaning an emotional state or mood portrayed by the dancer/actor, while ‘Rasa’ “taste” or “essence”, referring to the sentiment that ‘bhava' has manifested by the actor, and therefore evoked within the audience. In the Nyāya śāstra ‘Odhra Magadha’ is mentioned, and may be identified as the earliest precursor of the present day Odissi dance style so beloved of the Sutra Dance Company. In the theatre we heard, but could not see, the players of music.

Delight Amorous Delight 2016


Ordinarily an Odissi orchestra might consist of a ‘pakhawaj’ (drum) player, a singer, a flutist, a sitar or violin player and a manjira (hand cymbals) player. Dancers are adorned in Odiya silver jewellery and an especial coiffeur, along with voluminous Sambalpuri (Western Orissa style) or Bomkai saris (from the Odisha village of the same name). They are often vibrant in colour and unique to the dance style. The Amarushataka collection of semi-erotic poems deal with ‘delights and deprivations’ of love, and the ‘dark anguish of union-separation’, according to one reviewer for The Tribune (2006), and tell of "the young beloved of slender body and bewitching face" with "enchantingly dishevelled tresses, the vermilion on the forehead smudged", "tiny beads of sweat shining as the earrings swing in playful rhythm”. The poems are intimate, loving, with a touch of the poet Rumi ( Jalal adDin Mohammad Balkhi) echoing sweet forlornness in longing. With the aid of superbly lyrical classical Indian music from Srinivas Satpathy, Guru Dhaneshwar Swain and Ramarao Patra, Sivarajah Natarajan’s evocative lighting triggered the imagination to set the scene for a powerfully memorable performance. Ramli and company were, of course, simply stunning in their performances. From the large bow-drawing gestures, to the minuscule kohl lined eye movements and quasi-erotic kinesics, the performers intrigued and delighted a most enthusiastic audience. We watched enthralled as one performer indicated that her glances and her smiles would adorn the doorway, waiting for her lover, her breasts glinting with anticipatory perspiration replacing water pots. It was bosom heaving, love lorn poetics, skilfully transposed into stunning dance far surpassing the wanton gyrations of Bollywood Hrithik Roshan/Aishwarya Rai or Tamil film Urmila Matondkar/ Prabhu Deva couplings, or music maestro A.R.Rahman at his best. The performances revealed éros and agápe, Greek expressions of love. Éros as passion, seeing and appreciating the beauty in another and aspiring to know a spiritual truth, perhaps a truth through that cosmic dancer Shiva, as the Nataraja, lord of dance revealing the cyclical nature of the universe. Agápe, Plato thought of as the highest form of love, the love of man for god, or God, also the love for a wife and children. In 1970, the Beatles had finally sung ‘ In the end the love you take, is equal to the love you make’. A lot of love was make, figuratively, metaphorically that night, owing to the efforts of a wide range of people who brought Amorous Delight; Amarushataka to life. After show the audience birds twittered, they chit chatted, taking group photos and selfies. Indian memories were still fragrant, chords still vibrant and the air of love still charged sweet and sour, even in the colder light of the foyer, where normally the suspension of disbelieve begins to unravel. Be-costumed dancers mingled, smiled, posed for photo after photo in the still electric theatre foyer, the scent of Jasmine still sweet from the dance. The Sutra Dance Company’s excellent performance of Amorous delight was a triumph of near erotica. Together, the skilful ensemble held the prancing reigns of sadness, exhilaration, romance in its grasp, leading the audience this way and that, but always steady. It was a full gamut of emotion, visual and audible, melding choreography, poetry, Odissi Sangita (music), lighting and poignant graphics. A sublime hour rushed past and in true theatrical tradition we were left, like Dickens’ Oliver Twist, wanting more.


Photographs by S. Magendran and A. Prathap Sutra Foundation: 12 Persiaran Titiwangsa 3, 53200 Kuala Lumpur


Meera Das




Solo performance at Naman festival of Odissi dance 2016 Karnatika India



Images curtesy of Meera Das and Ravi Shankar


one woman

Every so often a book appears that reveals and illuminates a project that might otherwise remain largely unknown by the outside world: ‘Colors of Cambodia’ is such a book. This is a highly personal and passionate account written by Martin Bradley and illustrated by Pei Yeou Bradley of her encounter with a remarkable art-based project in and around Siem Reap in Cambodia, and how she was drawn into practical involvement with the children for whom the project exists. The book shows how a small NGO run by William Gentry in Siem Reap has been able to reach out to children in local schools, some in areas of great poverty, through the medium of art, and to give them hope for the future in a country that has suffered so much. The children and their families who are drawn into the project prove how art can cross all borders of language and culture. The book also tells of how Malaysian children and their parents have been encouraged to support the project and to become involved with the children and their work.

This is a highly personal and passionate account written by Martin B remarkable art-based project in and around Siem Reap in Cambodia, for whom the 64

n’s journey

And there is the additional touch of magic as Pei Yeou and Martin tell of their meeting and of how he too was drawn into the story, and contributes to it, and of how it changed his life. His sensitive words and poetry add another colour to this unique book In a world in which the news is bad more often than not, this inspirational book tells a story of optimism and success, and of how dreams can become true. Richard Noyce, Artist and Writer, Wales, July 2012

contact honeykhor@gmail.com martinabradley@gmail.com

Bradley and illustrated by Pei Yeou Bradley of her encounter with a , and how she was drawn into practical involvement with the children project exists. 65











Chao Harn Kae’s ceramic and sculpture solo exhibition, at K.L’s Oriental & Cultural Association, along the Old Klang Road, displayed all the ingenuity of a modern revelatory whimsy. A former Malaysian Institute of Art painting graduate (1997), Chao lives mostly in Hong Kong these days creating bronzes, ceramics, painting in oils and making sculptures. He returned to Malaysia to hold his first solo exhibition. This was launched some days after a M.I.A. old boys and girls massive get-together at Datuk Ramil Ibrahim’s Sutra House. Whimsies are capricious, fanciful, playful. Chao’s Human Beast Series whimsies had the quality of being drawn from memories of childhood, and/ or the more capriciously metamorphic elements of Western mythology. Petite white and blue porcelain centaurs (perhaps children of those sons of Ixion), pranced from Thessaly and Ovid’s Metamorphoses onto aged Malaysian railway sleepers. A blue-faced mermaid, her body pale, her piscine tail brushed blue, rested on a rough crafted breeze block. In her broken limbed stance she was another Aphrodite, risen from the sea and echoing the other from Melos, by Alexandros of Antioch. By another block of distressed wood, a blue-armed, white figure lay with its torso and lower body coiled, like a snake. It was most reminiscent of Grendel’s

Red Face






mother, the Anglo-Saxon seawitch, bane of Beowulf, but this male perhaps more resembled the Greek Typhoeus (miniaturized). Chao was conquering our hearts and minds with his tiny caprices, enchanting his visitors with their sad little faces, be-rouged and frequently coy. A lonely, lost couple sat in a small boat on a railway sleeper sea, one tiny blue rabbiteared figurine looking this way, another black one that. It was as if they were observing we visitors, forever curious of our curiosity. Elsewhere in that tantalising display was Chao's Portrait Series, with tall white plinths which enabled intricately manipulated ceramic busts (as the genealogy of those myriad creatures was uncertain perhaps austs is more appropriate) to look out. It all began, Chao intimated, with the one head and neck piece. It was a simple figure. You could imagine it to be the face of a clown, disguised with pale blue make-up, perhaps wearing a tight fitting earthen coloured coif head piece, or cowl. Is the face a mask? Where lies the real persona? Is it behind the mask, or is there no mask but a face, pinch-lipped and cautiouseyed as a character from some Moebius Bande Dessinee perhaps. Chao developed the concept further. Other head and neck sculptures began appearing, but this time with cowls resembling those of medieval fools, jesters with ass ears like Shakespeare’s Nick Bottom (1500s), or Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen's “Laughing Jester” (1515) and Hans Sebald Beham’s "A dancing fool” (1500s). Many of Chao’s series resembled busts of The Lost Boys’ in their Neverland animal costumes, hailing from Walt Disney’s cinematic “Peter Pan” animation (1953). They were cute, but with a distinctive otherness and each

with a distinctive, often haunting, face. Seeing deer antlers reminded Chao of hands, with fingers. He developed the idea into the head and neck series, then replacing ears with out stretched hands, or placing a hand on the head between the ears. His craftsmanship allowed his visitors to accept his concepts. His deftness and design encouraged a wilful suspension of disbelief as we, the audience, were drawn into his endearing fantasies.  Aside from the fascinating works of art displayed, and they were fascinating too, Chao admitted that the whole could not have been achieved without a little help from his friends. During the setting up, one friend would advise this, another that, until the display took the splendid shape it was in when I visited. The exhibition visitor was immediately struck by the uniqueness of the display, and of the display materials themselves. To present Chao’s captivating works to their fullest potential, plinths and exhibition blocks had been constructed of breeze-blocks, sections of railway sleepers, distressed and corroded metal troughs as well as the usual white stands, of varying sizes, this resulted in a meld of materials which was both eye-catching and mesmerising.







Left to right Alice Tan Bua Tian, Dr Foo Yong Kong, Martin Bradley and Alex Chai Boon Chin


Hidden Image 90-1, Dr Choong Kam Kow


Skyrise II, Khoo Sui Hoe


Abstract Landscape, Dr Foo Yong Kong


The five storey Maestro Fine Art Gallery is set to take the Malaysian art world by storm. It presents what has been described as ‘Malaysia’s largest private art gallery’, to all whom are interested in the progress of Fine Art in this country. The twelve Malaysian fine artists featured represent some of Malaysia’s finest current creators. Together, they have striven to raise the bar for South East Asian art to international standards, and set high benchmarks in art practice both here and internationally. Art in Malaysia has been dynamically evolving since the early years of the last century. It has been an enterprising period crammed full of exciting innovations in art, visual and otherwise.This new gallery is a testimony to those innovations and that recognition, and will lead the way into a bright art future Malaysia is finally being recognised as a Fine Art destination. It is shifting away from a Western dominated influence and Malaysian art can now incorporate both traditional techniques (Eastern and Western), and the constant lure of the figurative, while simultaneously fully embracing progressive, expressive and nonfigurative approaches to Fine Art production. Now it is for the audience, the visitor, to discern the relationship between the gallery, the artists and the works on show, if any. You and I create conversations and ‘correspondances' in our perceptions of the visual art displayed. We frequently bring with us, to exhibitions and displays, aspects of our personal cultures and our individual and societal ways of looking at paintings, and the presentations of artists. For our understanding there is a mid ground, somewhere between the personal perspective and the object presented. It is a


place in which we meet the artist and revel in the complexity of the communication from that meeting. That engagement between the artist’s creation and the visitor is often spellbinding, transfixing. Art in modernity has prospered that connection, enabled the meeting of minds through the diligent use of painterly techniques and/or poignant imagery to free our imaginations bolstered by artists. The twelve artists on show at the Maestro Fine Art Gallery, are superb examples of this, as is the gallery itself. This twelve artist exhibition enables us to witness the immense diversity of the masters of modern Malaysian visual art. Displayed here are the more figurative approaches to art, though I use that term lightly, of Khoo Sui Hoe, Raduan Man, Fauzul Yuri, Dr Choong Kam Kow and Bayu Utomo as well as the challenges of the neo expressionisms of Yusuf Ghani, Awang Damit, Suzlee Ibrahim, Shaparel Hj Salleh, lsmadi Sallehudin, Dato Tajuddin Ismail and Dr Foo Yong Kong. This exhibition offers a unique aesthetic and intellectual experience. It presents seldom seen works of prominent artists, revealing their prowess in technical skills, their mastery over their mediums and their ability to overawe us.


Landscape Merah, Tajuddin Ismail



Taman III,Yusof Ghani


Payarama Biru “Balat”, Awang Damit


Angin Pagi, Suzlee Ibrahim


Thru, Bayu Utomo



Terbang Tinggi, Ismadi Sallehudin


Riang-Riang, Shaparel


Dry Season, Fauzul Yusri


70s,Raduan Man




Colours of the Stream 1601



Swing 1502


Swing 1503


Colours of the Stream VII


Colours of the Stream XI


Indulge II



Colors of Cambodia A Non Government Organisation (NGO) bringing Art free to Cambodian children



A small NGO bringing big benefits by Martin Bradley

I looked out from The Sun eatery on Street 11, Krong, Siem Reap, past the ageing and barefooted tuk tuk driver, to the September rain, glad of its coolness. The rain lent a sheen to those Cambodian roads, and the overall tropical miasma. Dave Brubeck, taking five, memorably drifted through, muted only by the sound of the heavy rain and my slurping at an ubiquitous flat white. In front, and to the left, stood Pub Street, that infamous tourist trap, dampened by Siem Reap weather and all the better for it. David Bowie and his Starman replaced Mr Brubeck. Despite the rain, two young workmen had continued to rebuild the opposite pathway, laying first red bricks then a protective metal cover, which was topped off with concrete.The adjoining shop-lot had changed hands yet again. Gone were the outside trestles laden with fresh fish and piled with ice, in the requisite Nuevo Khmer cuisine style. Instead, there were distressed bricks and a predominance of red panelling. A Chinese restaurant perhaps. Two doors down from The Sun was Colors of Cambodia, the gallery. It was laden with parcels of all sorts. Founded in 2003 by the American artist Bill Gentry, Colors of Cambodia has evolved to give art tutelage, free, to Khmer students. As an offshoot, Colors of Cambodia also seeks sponsorship for Khmer children to go to, continue or return to school. With numbers exceeding 150 sponsored students, Colors of Cambodia annually buys school uniforms, shoes and school equipment with international sponsorship money donated by numerous sponsors, hence the parcels. Without that assistance, many struggling families would not have been able to afford the items necessary for their children to go to school. Those children, without education, would have little choice but to continue an agrarian existence, while those who had been their peers enter college or university, in Phnom Penh. Colors of Cambodia has always been a boutique NGO, bijoux, but big in heart. The new manager, Phany, is a success story in herself. She has grown, drawing and painting, with Colors of Cambodia, first (with her twin sister) as a young child, later as a teen and finally as a vibrant young woman. Originally taught by Colors of Cambodia teachers, who had themselves been taught at Phare Ponleu Selpak (another charity art and circus school 108

The Sun eatery on Street 11, Krong, Siem Reap


One white van, had once more been laden with parcels, packages, and copious bags of fresh bread


in the north of Cambodia) in Battambang, hardworking Phany now teaches the future Colors of Cambodia teachers, as well as still teaching art in four local Siem Reap schools, on the behalf of Colors of Cambodia. The following day I was early. You could tell that the rains of the last two days intended to hold off. By 9am the temperature was already 27c, the day bright and the roads dusty. I had looked across the road at a plethora of scooters, Scoopy, Honda NCX, interspersed by well used tuk tuks, their drivers smoking and chatting. I had the crazy notion of shouting out "take me back to Gotham City, Batman" but I didn't. I was an unshaven stranger there, with perhaps my metal health already in question, I had no cause to raise further doubts or concerns. Siem Reap seemed to be constantly renovating. An odour of glue had drifted in from next door, overpowering the smoke from a fellow customer's cigarette. I had never been into glue-sniffing. That was a pastime of later generations. My generation took cannabis, opium, cough cures that tasted foul but if you drank enough it got you high. Smoking dried banana however, didn't, despite what Page 4 of the Michigan Rag (Vol 1, Issue 20, 3/27/1967) in its article 'Pick Your Load Banana or Toad?' mentioned. Pity, as Cambodia has a lot of bananas. The previous night's Hard Rock Cafe, Angkor (established 2014), was an experience. I 'd not been to a Hard Rock since London, Covent Garden. Covent Garden had been a fruit and veg market since 1654. I had arrived, all hopeful and reasonably innocent, in 1967. International Times (IT), my first experience of how a newspaper works, had its headquarters there. No editor, net even a jurno I, but a lowly street seller for IT and Black Dwarf. The whole concept of Hard Rock Cafe had expanded since its first UK opening in 1971, on Old Park Lane, it's now in Cambodia. It was an interesting experience. There was a live local band belting out ACDC and one Led Zeppelin and, of course, the obligatory Hotel California, on which I make no comment. I wasn't there for the music, just to treat the hard working Honey to a little R&R, a little alcohol and something which included meat being mildly burnt, accompanied by chilli side dishes. It had suited the moment. That day, while I was contemplating an iPad keyboard, Honey had taken her troop of Malaysian volunteers, on motorcycles and in tuk tuks, to local Khmer schools. They visit on a twice yearly basis. There they had been disseminating school uniforms, shoes and exercise books, among many other things. It was the yearly handing over. One hundred and fifty four schoolchildren had been given the accoutrements for them to go to school for another year. The tuk tuks, and one white van, had once more been laden with parcels, packages, and copious bags of fresh bread skidding and sliding down pathways which could hardly be called roads, to out-of-town schools. School was officially out. It was holiday time. However, the sponsored children, the newly sponsored a little bemused, had come to school to collect their gifts from their Malaysian sponsors.


They returned home the richer, ready to start school the next term. The children of one school (of the four schools visited that trip), painted inside and out with orange and white, formed six lines on the steps and on the dirt outside their classroom. They were being photographed en masse. Previously they had been photographed individually, their images recorded for their sponsors. Teachers from the school, and from Colors of Cambodia, raised their thumbs in the now international salute to join in with the children. The Malaysian volunteers were joyous to see so many children’s smiling faces, happy with their new shoes, new school uniforms and smaller parcels of schooling equipment, rulers, pencils, crayons etc.The children were happy to know that they are cared for by so many strangers. Inside. On the blackboard. Someone had written, in Khmer and English ‘THANK YOU’, with two figures smiling big smiles, a Khmer boy and a girl, representative of the school’s eternal thanks to Honey and Colors of Cambodia for their annual help. This round of giving repeated another three times, with different schools around the rural Siem Reap area. As well as delivering the goods to schools and children, Honey visits children at home. It is challenging as many children live in outof-the-way areas, beyond the main city of Siem Reap, accessible only on foot or on motorcycles. It is necessary, regardless of heat and rain. Four home visits per trip is the maximum, due to time restraints. The sponsored children and their families live in simple accommodation. Compressed earth forms floors inside homes which are comprised of simple wood and thatch. Some are slightly raised against the annual flooding, and have tentative wooden slat flooring inside their green corrugated tin walls and ceiling. Trodden earth forms pathways where small, scrawny, black or white Cambodian chickens scratch in the dirt around the simple houses. Children and their families frequently live in small compounds, green plastic netting separating small banana orchards from the main living area. One mother weaves small baskets to help the family budget, while also helping her husband tend their small, but sufficient, area of rice paddy. These people’s homes have few belongings, scant furniture, a few shelves at best. Clothes are tumbled onto makeshift racks. They comprise of a few lengths of wood cobbled together,a simple frame with a top.On the wall may hang a school bag given a previous year by Colors of Cambodia sponsors, raised away from the ground crawling insects and wandering chickens. Homes are surrounded by as many vegetable, fruit and spice plants that their climate allows, aubergine, banana, papaya, lotus and water spinach (trokuon) growing in small ponds, which also breed dengue mosquitos. Seeing the children at home is heart tugging. It reminds Honey and her team why they do what they do in a foreign country. A place where they barely speak the language, yet give as much as they can give to make those lives a little better, every year.


New shoes, new school uniforms and smaller parcels of schooling equipment, rulers, pencils, crayons etc


Khmer school children prepare ‘Thank You’ notes for their sponsors



One hundred and fifty four schoolchildren h to go to school for another year. The tuk tuk laden with parc

School books heading for sponsored children in Khmer schools


had been given the accoutrements for them ks, and one white van, had once more been cels, packages...

New school uniforms for sponsored children in Khmer schools


The sponsored children and their families live in simple accommodation. Compressed earth forms floors inside homes which are comprised of simple wood and thatch. Some are slightly raised against the annual flooding, and have tentative wooden slat flooring inside their green corrugated tin walls and ceiling. 118



Happy Malaysian volunteers satisfied with a job well done


Inside Colors of Cambodia Gallery. Children of all ages are taught art with free donated art materials


Children, and teachers Honey Khor (from Malaysia) and Phany Phanin Futago (from Cambodia


Singapore volunteer print teacher Foo Kwee Horng


Colors of Cambodia has a regular supply of professional (international) artists willing to share their talents




New artwork by teacher/manager Phany Phanin Futago


New artwork by teacher Sok Oun


Throughout my four and a half years visiting Cambodia, I have constantly been intrigued by one man’s iconic artworks. Wherever I went I seemed to see published images of smiling Khmer people. Flat images of romantic Khmer women in sarongs, their long black hair cascading over ample bosoms, with smiles to beguile even the most hardened foreign visitor. The same, or similar, women balanced baskets of fruit appeared to display all their exotic pseudo-Gauguin allure. Roadside fruit sellers smiled as they weighed papaya, effortlessly displaying their peregrine charm. I was intrigued. Having lived through the ages of both Harvey Ross Ball’s iconic Smiley image (1963) and of its desecration by a blood drop on the cover of the Watchmen comic book, (No.1 Sept. 1986), I thought that I might have recognised the sentiments behind the Cambodian version of this smiley face. Those images of smiling Khmer faces appeared to resonate all the Love Joy and Peace that was in danger of vanishing when the antediluvian hippies did. That is before they resurfaced as New Age Travellers, then backpackers. Cambodia, and in particular Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, has felt a little like the Wild West,

f e t S e r v i v y de





or is that Wild East, for a while now. For some, after the Balearic Islands, then Goa, hippiedom was due to vanish like Beat Dinosaurs, but then came (Allen) Ginsberg’s followers, the new beats, the reinvigorated old hippies and the upright NGOs, earnest charities churning Cambodia, or at the very least the aforementioned cities, into the latest hippie enclaves with dead skin nibbling fish, dream catchers, thousands of images of Buddha and the ubiquitous smiley faces. Twenty two years in Cambodia and Delaprée, the creator of those naively, practically cartoon, smiling faces, is as smiley and as sprightly as ever. Despite life’s ups and downs, the man who distinctly reminds me of Radagast the Wizard (Sylvester McCoy) from the filmed series Lord of the Rings, has made a living from making us all smile. In life he is as chipper as one of his paintings.



Stéphane Delaprée, aka Stef, is the creator of that now infamous series of ‘Happy Cambodia’ paintings whose fame has spread from Asia to the Ukraine and to Russia. Those posters, postcards, mugs and framed images with all the ecstatically happy smiling Cambodians are now almost impossible to avoid in Phnom Penh, and Siem Reap. The first thing that you notice about Stéphane Delaprée is that he exudes as much joie de vivre as do his artworks. Delaprée, like his brothers before him, is one of the many Frenchmen who have been drawn to settle in the Kingdom of Cambodia, France’s ex-protectorate (1864-1946). Maybe it’s the insidious baguettes which call enticingly to the French from various roadside stalls, or the ice cream, crepes and/or the love of coffee which the French had left behind with the Khmer. Or there again perhaps it is the unmistakable warmness of the Khmer people and their sultry atmosphere which beckons to French, and other Europeans, but drawn we certainly are. Over what is loosely called a bucket of Frozen Margarita (but in reality a carafe), at Viva Restaurant on Street 9, Sangkat Svay Dangkum, Old Market Area, Stéphane Delaprée lets slip that he had been travelling from Quebec, Canada, where his French family had settled, and initially found Cambodia distasteful. “I didn’t like it at all. I thought it was dirty, people were in slow motion, you know.” But he had two brothers living in Cambodia and, being the gregarious soul that he is, made friends easily. The idea was just to visit, not to stay. With only two hundred dollars, he was in love, happy to paint and producing well. “I was more like a painting factory at that time.” “Everything I done, people want to buy. I was poor and decided to stay for a few months, just like that. Some people asked me to have an exhibition in the only art gallery in Cambodia at that time. We sold fourteen paintings in two hours.” There were ups and downs to his career, but over time people began to refer to those smiling paintings as “healing paintings”, paintings which enabled psychological healing to begin, or take place. In conversation Delaprée mentioned that he had recently been painting huge murals in a prominent hospital within Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam, and last year was engaged to do merchandising for that too. More recently he was recently commissioned to paint five large murals about the life of Christ, for a Spanish Bishop, in a French chateau. In one, being in a mischievous frame of mind, Delaprée painted not just angels, but also a small flying saucer, expecting to have to paint over it later. But, once it was pointed out to him, the Bishop was delighted, and insisted that the flying saucer remain. Delaprée’s style is certainly infectious. It denies comparison. Though some have tried to compare his works to Gauguin and Henri Rousseau, his works resonate with his own, vibrant, Bon homie. It is quite obvious that Delaprée puts his heart and soul into his amazingly, but not annoyingly, cheery works. In a town which boasts a restaurant bar dedicated to the Beatles Yellow Submarine, bars and restaurants dedicated to other colours (Blue Pumpkin, Purple Mangosteen, Red Piano et al) Delaprée’s art reminds us of a childlike innocence, a blissful world which could never exist, though secretly wished for by many in our naive or hapless dreams. 135

In his gallery, almost opposite Viva Hotel/Restaurant, bright primary colours draw us to the smiling Khmer family riding fourup on the family motorcycle. The back wheel of the red motorcycle is practically covered with images of yellow chickens. Be-hatted women plant rice in evergreen fields, while a half hidden Angkor Wat shyly peeps from simplified trees. These, like all his paintings, present the onlooker with a Utopia never quite envisaged by Thomas Moore. The paintings are revealed as frozen moments of happiness that the artist shares with us all. Let us just be grateful for this.



Stéphane Delaprée with Martin Bradley



art talk with Martin Bradley

Korean Artist

Kim Il Tae reaching an evaluation

Affin Bank Kuala Lumpur


Martin Bradley with Kim Il Tae banner


Martin Bradley with Serena Chiam


Malaysian artist Honey Khor

Martin Bradley presenting

Martin Bradley presenting Kim Il Tae’s solid gold art on canvas artworks










A friend in an odd city Poem by Subha N Nevidita

Today I met a friend Or perhaps my friend met me, in an odd city  that smells of asphalt, beer, and cheese  and where monsoons are:  droplets from Lake Michigan, accompanied by breeze In our own orbits, we travelled for eight years  we hadn't known each other  But we draped each other's inhibitions and fears  on this misty cold morning. Years ago, carefree, greased in mud,  kicking a football, he hardly met me and dipped in my own inhibitions  a person not of my ilk I did not wish to see  But today, in an odd city, I met a friend;  rather: the friend met me

Subha N Nivedita is a freelance writer and editor who lives in the Midwest part of the US. A hyderabadi, she loves watching the squirrels and hopes to befriend them, someday. She blogs at: thepoetryprayaanam.wordpress.com.







another side of

Siem Reap



in search of

Eggs Benedict by Martin Bradley

Rainy September found me, once more, back in Cambodia’s Siem Reap. This time, my gastronomic trek took me from tarpaulin-covered Khmer markets, to a very American Hard Rock Cafe across the Siem Reap River. And yes, they do have a Hard Rock Cafe in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I had in mind lightly poached eggs, their viscid saffron yolks ready to ooze upon knife slit. Those much desired eggs were to be draped with a heavenly hollandaise sauce and delicately balanced on tender smoked salmon, with maybe a twist or two of black Kampot pepper and the whole sitting on some rustic bread or other, or maybe a traditional English muffin. Something like Eggs Benedict (possibly dating back to 1890s and ‘Eufa a' la Benedic’, a recipe in The Epicurean, 1894). The perfect version I had encountered, so far, was partaken at the Antipodean Café, sequestered at the Mid Valley Mall, Kuala Lumpur. And that was with a great deal of thanks to a certain Danish woman who is too much of a Lady to be mentioned here. The game was afoot…. My slightly ‘L shaped’ room (202, at Reaksmey Chanreas Hotel), was conveniently situated close to Siem Reap’s Old Market. The room was adequate, nothing more, nothing less. At night, when that old part of the city let its hair down and lifted its skirts up, various inns, clubs and pubs surrounding Sivatha Boulevard began a serenading which lasted until the early hours (3.30am on Sunday). Those not involved in the making of hay while the bats flew, had no choice but to listen to those who did, and to whom Oscar Wilde might have uttered “There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” That, and the one about work spoiling drinking time. The Cambodian morning was cool (27c) and bright. Midday rose to thirty two degrees centigrade and promptly prompted my use of the local three-wheeled tuk tuks. I am such a delicate flower. As the sun eased down (around at six pm), the thin, almost bare trees outside the hotel room became laden with hundreds of cawing, twittering, Hitchcockian birds. A prologue for the night to come. But before resting my weary bones, I was to continue the habit I had developed, recently, in Europe. I had once again fallen in love, with gelato. That was in 160

Eggs Benedict at Fifty-5 Kitchen Bar


Caffè corretto with Grappa and cioccolato al pepe di Kampot (chocolate icecream with Kampot pepper


I had once again fallen in love, with gelato. That was in Gallarate, Italy. I continued that romance in Catalonia and refreshed the affair in Siem Reap


Gallarate, Italy. I continued that romance in Catalonia and refreshed the affair in Siem Reap. I could not resist the wantoness of Cioccolato al pepe di Kampot (80% organic dark chocolate ice-cream with fresh Kampot black pepper), nor the calling of Caffè corretto (expresso coffee with a shot of Italy’s famous ‘grappa’), and resigned myself to my fate. In many respects, the northern Cambodian city of Siem Reap continues to readjust itself to its vast volumes of annual tourists. Angkor Wat, undeniably remains the main attraction, and Siem Reap its jumping-off point. But not just jumping-off point, but a point to return back to after trekking, trudging, and earning all sorts of Eagle badges and Brownie points for adventuring into the heat-laden Khmer outback. The city of Siem Reap had become gorged with foreign tourists seeking all the comforts of home, such as Lemon Tarts (from Le Tigre de papier, down Street 08, Krong) plus a little otherness too, such as ostrich or crocodile steaks, though not too much. The local currency is Riel, though American Dollars are more frequently used throughout, which must add a distinct air of familiarity to many from the US of A. Though this time around, and maybe it was the time of year, there seemed to be a plentitude of Ozzie accents rather than American. In its pandering to foreign tastes, the old city of Siem Reap wishes to present a home from home to its numerous visitors. It proffers the best and the worse of burgers (and those minuscule burgers at Burger King on Sivatha Rd, Krong, Siem Reap are perhaps some of the latter). There are myriad pizzas, with a multitude of toppings, from tens of outlets and even a Swiss cheesy fondue (at the Swiss Food Asia Restaurant Bar, which also serves pizza). And yet there does seem to be competition to present the most blandest of items of 'Khmer cuisine’. I use the term 'Khmer Cuisine' quite lightly for the now, too many to mention, Khmer eateries seem to offer an almost identical menu, with greater or lesser degrees of success of its authenticity. Siem Reap has become reminiscent of Spain's Costa Brava and its ubiquitous Paella joints, or Goa's endless Fish Curry shacks or just about anywhere where the travesties which call themselves Pizza, rear


Le Tigre de papier Lemon Tart


Traditional Khmer market fare


their ugly cheesy pseudo-Italian heads. In Siem Reap there is already the distinct feeling of gastronomic overload. While true Khmer Cuisine, to we foreigners, is largely an impenetrable mystery of unrecognisable vegetation, dried fishes and copious variations along the theme of extremely hot chilli paste, the plentiful eatery menus present little of that, and seem to prefer a blander, westernised, version of their own food. This is neither as clean tasting, nor as hot, as Thai or Vietnamese food, and does not bear any of the multiculturalism of Malaysian food, though this brand of Khmer Cuisine is to be found touted everywhere in the shophouse restaurants of Siem Reap, and is as ubiquitous as the now infamous ‘Mamak’ shops in Malaysia. Perhaps the one untouched, genuine, authentic proffering of Khmer Cuisine is that found in Psar Chas (the Old Market), where a mother/daughter duo continue to fill baguettes or drop noodles into a stunning mix of vegetation and meats, for next to nothing. Having written copiously about food from Cambodia in previous articles, this time my goal was not to seek out the most genuine ‘Amok’, ‘Khmer Curry’ or indeed ‘Lok Lak'. Instead, shunning these versions of Khmer Cuisine, I allowed myself to amble through the alleyways, wander the dusty, motorcycle dominated roads, and find myself in some curiously interesting cafés. Some had the omnipresent local proffering, plus other content, while others stuck to their own particular brand of fusion or confusion foods. Many such cafés were a delight, and some a grave disappointment. Central Café, at the Corner of Old Market, Siem Reap, and at the intersection of Street 9 and Street 11 had advertised that their All Day Breakfast (7am – 11pm) had the eggs of my dreams - Eggs Benedict, consisting of ‘Two poached eggs on toasted bun, sliced ham and hollandaise sauce’. Eager to get an early start and beat the crowds, I followed ‘Google Maps’ directions and got to my destination via circuitous route, at about 8am. Sad to say that there was no menu outside. Having waited five minutes to talk to the staff, who seemed too busy talking to interact with potential customers about the non existent menu, I lost interest, and walked away from the possibility of their scrumptious breakfast. On that roundabout route to Central Café I had passed a fairly new


eatery calling itself Fifty 5 Kitchen-Bar. It had previously been ‘The Warehouse’, one of Siem Reap’s western styled pubs. The premises had been renovated and reopened as Fifty 5 Kitchen-Bar (in July 2016). Although Fifty 5 has the same owner as Central Café (Alex Sutherland), the staff at the new venue were smiley, attentive and very well mannered. Having been welcomed, and welcomed in, I immediately settled to one (of two) large Flat White coffees and enjoyed my Eggs Benedict (two poached eggs, hollandaise sauce with smoked salmon on an English Muffin). Verdict - good, but not great at $8 for the Eggs. A similar dish, in the already mentioned Antipodean, Mid Valley, Kuala Lumpur is the equivalent of $6 (RM25), making Siem Reap expensive for Malaysians and those who dwell in Malaysia. Another morning, another breakfast. I was beginning to yearn for my old favourite of eggs, bacon, tomatoes and French baguette, served up at Nai Khmer Restaurant, beside Psar Chas (the Old Market) on Street 9. Forsaking those longings, I wandered past in favour of dinning at Sister Srey Café, along Pokambor Avenue, and by Siem Reap River. I had been there a couple of times, in various seasons, and remembered that their version of Eggs Benedict had been worth going back for. It was. While the ever smiling Khmer staff were as attentive, and as polite, as ever, I honestly could not say the same for the two Australian sisters who own the place. Two, out of three times, visiting Sister Srey Café over the years I got the distinct impression that I had become invisible. While other foreign visitors (perhaps fellow Australians) garnered almost raucous welcomes by the sisters, I received not one word. It was a small thing, but memorable and would hamper any thoughts of further return. Sister Srey Café’s version of Eggs Benedict - Eggs Bene-Delicious, was, and nicely priced at $4.50 (RM18.50). Two lightly poached eggs, accompanied by spinach and crispy bacon were situated on toasted ciabatta and smothered, in a nice way, with a slightly peppery Hollandaise Sauce. Sadly, the venue’s ambiance is as much part of the dinning experience as the food itself, and while a foreign blind-eye might be turned to the hordes of tuk tuk drivers chatting and smoking across the road, the rubbish on the street,


Sister Srey Cafe, Eggs Bene-Licious


The Little Red Fox Expresso, do it yourself toasted Bagel, smoked salmon, cream cheese


the dust and heat, being ignored by the owners does, however, rankle. In another Siem Reap lifetime, when my other half and her team from Colors of Cambodia had been painting their first mural at Angkor Hospital for Children, we had frequented the American café Common Grounds (719-721 Street 14, Mundol 1), for lunch. Time has marched on and Common Grounds has been somewhat left behind. While their Pumpkin Soup continues to be a dish worth visiting for, sadly the rest of the menu leaves much to be desired. A few doors up Hap Guan St (593), was The Little Red Fox Espresso. I had wanted to visit this place so many times, but whenever I had previously approached the doorway seemed to be crowded with hairy bikers and serious looking bikes. It wasn’t until this trip, and in the company of my Singaporean artist and art historian friend Art Foo (Foo Kwee Horng) that I braved that doorway. There were no bikers, no bikes. For me the ultimate bagel joint will always be Beigel Bake (Brick Lane Bakery, 159 Brick Lane, London E1 6S). It was there that I was introduced to that little piece of heaven that is the freshly baked bagel, sliced and spread with sufficient smoked salmon, succulent cream cheese, a sour twist of lemon and a rumbustious shake of black pepper (£1.80 - $2.34 - RM9.64). That will always be the benchmark for all subsequent filled bagels. The Little Red Fox Espresso gave it a good try, but they had toasted the cut bagel and, for me, it added a texture I just did not need. It was a nice thought though. Presenting a shallow bowl with smoked salmon, another for cream cheese, yet another for red onion, and so on for lime and capers. A do it yourself bagel at about five dollars. Yet it could not compare to just standing around with a mug of good old ( Jewish) British tea, and Beigel Bake’s home made fare. Further afield, yet suspiciously near to the Hard Rock Café (King's Road Angkor, Street 7 Makara, Old Market Bridge, Krong) was Jungle Burger Sports Bar and Bistro (Street 26, Between the River and Wat Bo Road Opposite the Peace Cafe). No poncy Benedictine Egg there, just good ole New Zealander homemade meat pies with a bit of an attitude, JB’s Naughty Dog (hot dog), JB’s Honey BBQ style Rack of Ribs, Blue Cheese and Bacon Burger and an assortment of other imaginative burgers. If you are lucky, you can get a free cold draft beer with that. But, you know, you can take all the baguettes on offer, but ultimately it’s all about just how good the Flat White is. As all good things must, it ended. We returned to an equally hot Kuala Lumpur, sporadic water supply and a dicky washing machine. Such is life.


Jungle Burger, Steak, Cheese and Bacon Pie + Kampot pepper



you can take all the baguettes o Baguettes Khmer style


on offer


Sister Srey Cafe, Flat White coffee

but, ultimately, it’s all about 176

t just how good the Flat White is 177

Dusun P Books by Martin








Profile for Martin Anthony

The blue lotus 5  

The Blue Lotus Arts and Culture magazine brings Asia to the world and the world right back to Asia.

The blue lotus 5  

The Blue Lotus Arts and Culture magazine brings Asia to the world and the world right back to Asia.