Les femmes Cambodgiennes de la Chanson

Original paintings by Julien POULSON

Another unforgettable evening at One Eleven Gallery awaits as we launch “Les Femmes Cambodgiennes de la Chanson”, an exhibition by Julien Poulson along with a one-of-a-kind musical event with Australia’s foremost jazz drummer Louis Burdett who will be performing a live score to the classic 1967 Cambodian movie ‘Sovannahong’, a fantasy film directed by Yvon Hem and based on Khmer mythology.

The music of Cambodia and more specifically, the Cambodian women of song, inspires Julien’s latest series of paintings. Les Femmes is part of an expansive music arts project that Julien is co-producing with singer/songwriter Sam Dara. Poulson’s “Les Femmes Cambodgiennes de la chanson” series illustrates and tells the fascinating 50-year history of Cambodia’s siren singers – from the early beginnings of the pop music industry in the 1960s, where singers such as Chhoun Malay and Mao Sareth rose to stardom, through to the Golden Era voices of Ros Sereysothea and Pan Ron in the time of 45rpm record players and the ‘oh so chic!’ Norodom Sihanouk movie era, and up to 2010 when singers such as Chhom Nimol and Kak Channthy took Cambodian music to audiences around the world.

Tragically, most of Cambodia’s recording artists were killed during the genocide. Artists became the target of a perversely Maoist Marxist concept of a return to Year Zero. When Pol Pot was overthrown in 1979, sound systems, music and dances returned to Cambodia and, at the same time, 1980-81 produced the biggest baby boom in the world’s history. Cambodian Space Project diva Kak Channthy was born in 1980 at a time when guerrilla war and conflict raged across Cambodia and new singers were emerging out of the ashes of cultural devastation. Him Sivorn emerged in the early 80’s with a hugely important concert at Olympic Stadium to become the voice of a nation.

However, up until present day, times have been tough and often violent for Cambodia female artists, with singers often becoming targets of jealousies and, in some cases, falling victim to vicious attacks and even murder and assassination, leading them to leave their homeland to seek refuge abroad. Poulson’s paintings reflect these ‘shadows of darkness’ through the history and imagery of the women of song while also showing the absolute beauty and splendour of iconic divas and women who, at various times, have risen to become the sublimely beautiful voices of the Kingdom of Cambodia.