Leang Seckon was born in Prey Veng province, Cambodia, in the early 1970s at the onset of the American bombings of Indochina and grew up during the rise of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime.
A 2002 graduate of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Phnom Penh, his works have appeared as illustrations throughout Cambodia and the United States. Noted exhibitions include the artist’s participation in the 2012 Shanghai Biennale, and the 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT8) held at the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, Australia, in 2015, 4th Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale in Japan in 2009, the ASEAN New Zero Contemporary Art Exchange, Yangon, Myanmar, also in 2009, and his Rubbish Project (2008) a public project in Phnom Penh. He has exhibited widely in his home country as well throughout Asia. In 2010 Rossi & Rossi hosted his first solo exhibition in Europe.
Leang Seckon is a leading Cambodian artist of international fame. Naima Morelli visited him in his house/studio in Phnom Penh and discovered a deeply human and wise spirit.
“When I was young, I mostly liked to be alone. I loved to climb trees because I could see everything from there. I felt free like a bird and I could sing,” the artist Leang Seckon told me, sitting on a wobbly chair amidst his paintings. “When I had to take important decisions, I would always climb a tree. Things didn’t look quite as unfathomable from such a high-up perspective.”
The image of Leang Seckon I had seen before I actually met him was mostly of an aristocratic artist dressed as a Khmer king from ancient times, looking golden and shining. This was how he appeared during his performances at the Rossi and Rossi Gallery in London. But when we actually met, I was faced, instead, with a friendly, unassuming man in a T-shirt, shorts and plastic flip-flops.
These two contrasting dimensions of the regal and the mundane are found both in Leang’s work and his persona. If he was wearing his everyday attire, his strong features and brows would make him look almost surly. However, looking more deeply, I saw that his face was just like the calm and charismatic figures of the kings who are carved into the rock in the Bayon temple.