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The Feminine Mystique

By: The FCC Cambodia Posted: December-31-2009 in
The FCC Cambodia

At home in the foothills of Bokor Mountain, French artist Vincent Broustet surveys the lush contours that surround his stilted wooden home.

Enveloped by bright green rice fields, a river and the sea, the choice of abode seems a natural fit for the 47-year-old Bordeaux native, who spent four years in the deserts of southern Morocco before moving to the jungles of Southeast Asia.

"Cambodia still retains what I like," he says. "It's rough, it's in the countryside mainly, and it's still totally off the roads of fashion and 'global influence'."

Five years on, Broustet is now married, and he and his wife Sichan have just finished constructing a home in the Kampot hills. His latest exhibition, "Sola," is the artistic distillation of the couple's year-long home-building process. And his wife, their new home and his latest exhibit are as intimately intertwined as the brushes, the ink and the paper with which his new drawings were created.

"Sola," Spanish feminine for alone, consists of roughly two dozen ink-and-paper drawings that illustrate Broustet's personal study of the female spirit, as constrained by the demands of building a new home.

"It is only that: looking at a young woman, trying to catch what makes her what she is, beyond clichés or fake idolization," Broustet says about the exhibit that's on display at the FCC Angkor throughout January.

Sichan largely provided the inspiration for his collection, and she is the subject of many of Broustet's drawings. But it was the time constraints leveled by the process of building the home that forced Broustet away from more involved artistic pursuits.

"I had little time to paint while building the house, so I returned to drawing," Broustet says. "Going back to black China ink is a pleasure for me. It's also a very difficult medium, for it does not allow any mistakes."

Born in Bordeaux in 1962, Broustet left school at the age of 16, and a year later, with a "true addiction to travel," he left France to see the world.

After years of studying at the "school of freedom," Broustet returned to Paris, where he spent three years at the Beaux Arts School burnishing his talents with traditional classroom instruction.

"My way of expression then was mainly drawing, water colors and inks," he says of those early years. "My focus was always on moods, atmospheres, real human attitudes caught on the streets, or on trains, in a flash."

The inherent transience of his subjects immensely sharpened his skills.

"Most of the time, what catches my eye is a fragile moment," Broustet says. "I learned to look quick, to catch in three lines the maximum of life, the truth of the subject, more than its obvious shape."

Those minimalist influences are still prevalent in his drawings today.

"A good drawing for me is the balance between the form and soul of the subject, and the minimal amount of lines you'll use to capture that," Broustet says. "It's about not cheating, and letting things come, the razor's edge between control and blind perception."

His return to ink and paper in many ways reflects a return to those early influences. Only these days, he has traded strangers for family, and exchanged those fleeting big-city experiences for the more lasting permanence of a home in the hills of Kampot.

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