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Arts

Cambodian contemporary art comes of age

Provocative generation of artists tackles troubled history and current woes

Conceptualist Svay Sareth carries "Ball and Chain" through Phnom Penh (Courtesy of Sa Sa Bassac Gallery)

PHNOM PENH -- Abstract expression, that nihilist art from 1950s New York, is alive and well -- in Cambodia. Crowds gather regularly in the provincial town of Battambang to witness "live painting" by students who fling colors, glitter, glue, paper scraps and even metal chains onto large public canvasses. And this year, representatives from a nation that has only two art schools, offering no formal courses on Western traditions, a single operating lithography press, and not one serious commercial gallery, have been invited for the first time to both the Venice Biennale and Germany's equally prestigious Documenta.

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