The lingering problem of landmines in Cambodia is an issue that is close to Sarah Constable.
The British artist who has called Cambodia home for over a decade has visited demining sites throughout the Kingdom. And her thoughts and impressions of what she encountered while visiting the demining sites form the basis of “Life Beyond,” Constable’s series of paintings, prints and light installations that are on display at Java Café & Gallery until Nov. 20.
It was 10 years ago that Constable first encountered a demining site in Cambodia.
“The first time I was really struck by the full force of the devastation landmines cause was after visiting Beng Melea temple in 2001,” she recalls.”The HALO Trust had started demining around two of the exterior walls and there were craters where the mines had been detonated. Numerous people in the nearby village were survivors of landmine accidents.”
Visiting the demining sites proved to have a profound effect on Constable.
“If I was not with deminers whom I trusted it would have been terrifying. Every step I took I wondered whether my life might change in a second,” Constable recalls. “It makes you wonder about the pain suffered by landmine survivors and how they get through such a devastating occurrence.”
“It’s difficult to understand how someone works through such a devastating experience, but they do,” she says. “It appeared that the survivors dealt with the day-to-day reality and had an innate strength and resilience,” Constable says.
Constable is also a teacher and has worked with the children at the Cambodian Landmine Museum over the years. She helped the museum set up an art room and taught a series of art projects to the children. While working on a mine action project for the UNDP’s “Clearing for Results” in 2009, Constable worked with four children who were landmine survivors at the museum.
“They created some extremely thought-provoking work about their accident in the past and their ambitions for the future,” she says, adding that the impetus for “Life Beyond” came from the UNDP project.
Constable was born in the UK and graduated from Wimbledon School of Art in London in 1992 with a degree in sculpture. During that time she also worked with the lino and woodcut method of block print-making. In 1997, she completed a postgraduate diploma in teaching art and design at Oxford.
She has had her various works on display in over 40 group exhibitions in the UK, US, Cambodia and Thailand, eight of which were solo shows. Her work is in private collections worldwide and she has completed numerous commissions for sculptures, public monuments, prints and mural paintings.
Constable says she originally became an artist because she knew that was where her real passion lay.
“Being an artist is a really tough profession so I guess it also helped that I was never interested in making huge amounts of money,” she says.”I am happiest when I have a hammer and chisel in my hand hacking at a piece of stone. It becomes a sort of meditative process.”