I had the pleasure of meeting Khmer artist Nak Noy at Tribe Art Gallery in Siem Reap, Cambodia. He was discovered by Londoners Terry and Nat who opened Tribe Gallery in September 2018. Nak Noy’s work is authentic, powerful and incredibly detailed. His current body of work ‘Connection’ reflects personal experiences relating to family, power and connection through intricate drawings and portraits. It was inspiring to hear his journey so far; from growing up in a Cambodian village to now selling art all over the world! Let’s have a chat shall we?
Tell us about your journey so far, when did you first start creating art?
I first started creating art when I was twelve years old, and it got more serious when I turned seventeen. When I was twelve, most of my classmates would ask me to do some drawings and stick them up on the walls. When teachers mentioned something about art they would point at me, and this continued on into high school. I became known as ‘The Artist’ to most of my friends. When I was eighteen I had my first print show at a coffee shop called Little Red Fox Espresso in Siem Reap.
You now have a residency at Tribe Gallery, how did this come about?
Nat and Terry saw my exhibition at Little Red Fox and got in contact. They said they thought it would be a good step for me to go from a coffee shop to an actual gallery. At coffee shops, people don’t pay as much attention to the art. But, it was a really good experience for me – my first big start.
When I was eighteen I was going to work and doing art. I was working as a receptionist at a hotel, and it took me a year to quit and put my all into my art. Art is expensive!
@Nak.Noy instagram – Guardian of the moon
I can imagine. What materials do you use in your art?
I mostly use watercolour, and alcohol marker colour – which can also be used with water. I also use biro and pencil, but I don’t use oil paint.
I became known as ‘The Artist’ to most of my friends.
Tell us about your current show at Tribe Gallery called ‘Connection’ – what was the inspiration behind this?
There are three words that come to mind when I create art: women, confidence and nature. For my show ‘Connection’ this is based on family, women and connection. When I see something happening I always draw it in my sketchbook. If it looks cool, I choose to feature it in a collection.
‘Connections’ – Nak Noy
Can you talk me through the stories behind some of the pieces.
This one ‘Connections’, is about my family. The first person (from left) is me, the second is my sister, then my mother and my father at the end. It is a boat, and he is carrying all of us. My mother is carrying a plate of fruit to represent how she is responsible for feeding us and providing for us. My sister is carrying a lotus flower. This represents how she is the purest member of the family, like white paper. I am carrying a paddle, to help my father make the boat move.
‘Sisters’ – Nak Noy
How about your piece ‘Sisters’?
I was inspired by this one when I was in primary school. I saw two muslim sisters wearing hijabs and they were being bullied by their male classmates who were trying to see their hair. So, in the painting the older sister is protecting the younger sister. They are holding hands to show how they are connected and are both holding lotus flowers to represent purity and innocence.
Another meaning of the lotus flower is that they are known to grow from dirt, and so they can bring beauty to the dirtiest pond. The lotus flower is a symbol of hope in Buddhism.
There are three words that come to mind when I create art: women, confidence and nature.
Do you have a favourite piece?
Probably, ‘The Controller’ – it is the biggest one and is about someone who is controlling everyone. It shows how they are all forced to be connected to him.
‘The Controller’ – Nak Noy
What are your dreams as an artist?
Since I was seventeen years old, I have dreamt of being an international artist. So far I have sold work all over the world; from New York, Hong Kong, South Africa to Germany. The next step is to visit all these places myself!
What other projects have you got coming up?
I am meeting someone soon who has asked me to design jewelry for them. It would be made from silver, gold and semi precious jewels. I have done sketches for earrings, rings, bracelets and crowns. I think I’ve sketched just under two hundred designs. They took me around thirty minutes to ten days with all the sketching and colouring. I am also working on a mural in Coconut alley (next to Tribe Gallery), which I am hoping to finish in May/ June.
Where to find Nak Noy …
Instagram – @nak.noy
Instagram – @Tribecambodia
Facebook – @TRIBEcambodia
Website – https://tribeart.bigcartel.com/products