Interview with Peap Tarr
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Peap Tarr, Samapeap Tarr ‘Samapeap' -Equality
by Peap Tarr
Hi My Name is Peap Tarr, Peap is my Art Alias, my full name is Samapeap Tarr ‘Samapeap' in Khmer means "Equality". My Mother is Cambodian and my Father is from New Zealand, I was born in Auckland New Zealand. When I was 12 we moved over to Sydney Australia and we lived in the inner city neighborhood of Glebe, it was a one-bedroom apartment near the park.Where we lived there was lots of Graffiti art, murals, lots of tags, it was truly Urban compared to what was happening back in New Zealand at the time, this was around end of 1987, 1988.
I went to Glebe High School which is what really opened me up more to Graffiti culture, I was already into the HipHop side of music from back in New Zealand but its Sydney they opened me up more to that art side and I really just got immersed in the whole Hip Hop Culture that was happening in Sydney Australia of course most of the influence was coming from New York and LA Hip Hop Culture.
It was my young teenage years and I was discovering myself, hanging out with friends, playing Basketball, skating, doing tags here and there and just basically having fun growing up in the inner city. In 1989 my Mother was able to reunite with her Family in Cambodia who she was separated from when the War broke out in Cambodia she had lost her Parents, Aunties, Uncles, Cousins and friends due to the war. But her Brothers and Sisters had survived so it was a very emotional visit for my Mother. And the first time I had been to Cambodia, I was still very young, so it was a big culture shock for me having grown up mainly in New Zealand and Australia and also Thailand.
Going to Cambodia it made me understand more of my Mother Side of her Khmer Culture, which is part of me as well. When we went to visit again in the 90s I had a chance to see Angkor Wat and the many surrounding temples in Siem Reap, this really sparked new interest for me in part of my cultural heritage. I took photos with my Mums Camera and when she developed them, I would look at them and tried to recreate what I saw in the photos, by drawing with black ink on paper, I kept them and just them aside, it was just some fun.
When I went back to New Zealand I got involved in the Art Scene going on this was around 2000 but I was just messing around and experimenting with my art and this was around the time I started to merge my cultural mix into my art, I just didn’t want to do Graffiti letters and characters which I do love, but I felt so many people around the globe was doing this and really just following the traditional styles of Graffiti Art which is super fresh but for me I wanted to be able visually communicate who I am but using my love for Graffiti Art and Hip Hop Culture and merge it into my own version and tell a audience who I am and what I represent.
Around 2014 I really started to find my true style which was a mix of Khmer Design with New Zealand Design and when I say New Zealand Design its many mixes, because New Zealand is a mixture of Maori, Pacific and European but very strongly Maori and Polynesian and this is what influenced me from a young age since I’m from New Zealand and it’s the culture I grew up around. I blended all these cultural elements into my art and 2015 /2016. I linked up with my good friend 2TOES a very active Graffiti artist from the same city as me Auckland city. We really got a long well and we would go painting together and just hanging out. The more I painted the more people noticed my artwork both local and soon internationally thanks to the Internet.
Around this time I used mainly black paint and big brushes to go paint, so my artwork looked very bold and lots of contrast on large walls. Plus its what I could afford, since I was also raising my young daughter, it was truly a busy time and didn’t get much sleep, but I believed in what I was doing and its just what I loved doing which is painting and creating. I was studying, working and painting on the streets with my friends. I was also involved in local art shows happening in Auckland City and soon I was getting invited to some art shows in Australia and also America, one in particular was at Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles along Melrose Ave this was around 2007 and when I was in LA I linked up with Chaz Bojorquez a very famous and legendary Graffiti Artist since the 70’s he is the Godfather of the Cholo Style of Letters a very important movement in Los Angeles Street Culture, Chaz is someone I looked up to and this trip was very inspiring to me.
Some of my art was popping up in International Art Publications, which gave me even more exposure back in Auckland New Zealand, and at the same time I was able to visually communicate and open dialogue about my mix of Khmer and New Zealand heritage. In 2010 I went over to Cambodia to see my Mum and just see what’s going on in Cambodia and Thailand. Thailand had a strong Graffiti and Street art scene happening and I got involved in some art adventures in Thailand around this time, nothing major but starting to merge and do a few small art events with friends in Thailand which was cool.
But I wanted to focus more on Cambodia since I’m half Cambodian and during this time there was no Graffiti or Street art happening in Cambodia, only very small amounts, the only Graffiti that stood out to me at the time was a throw up piece I saw from a Graffiti writer called Tones who is now a very good friend of mine. He has cultural links to Cambodia as well but lives over in Europe.
I was able to paint here and there in Phnom Penh and started to get my art seen in Cambodia which was exciting since my art was visually exploring part of my Khmer heritage, I had friends of mine from Malaysia also joining me to paint in Cambodia, THEY and BiBi which was really cool we did some art events and also doing Graffiti art workshops with Street Kids and Mith Samlang Friends International.
Later in the year I meet Lisa Mam who at the time was Studying to be a Dr Dentist but Lisa also loved painting and we started to get along really well together and soon we were painting together, Lisa is from Phnom Penh and is 100% Khmer, it was so much fun because we soon blended our art styles together which really complimented one another and soon we became our mini art team or a Art Duo. We really pushed both our art cultures into our art and soon we were getting recognition around Phnom Penh City and around Cambodia for what we were doing, I guess we stood out at the time because we were painting walls and doing our art at a large scale.
2011 was a very busy year, Lisa and I were really on the go with painting we were also getting commercial success in terms even being commercials which had us painting and just being who we are, plus painting some business’s around town. That year we also linked up with Zerosy from Japan who was doing a Graffiti world tour, and we all painted together in Phnom Penh, after his world tour was complete, Zerosy picked us amongst handful of artist he had meet on his journey to be part of his Jetlag project which was to collaborate on a T-shirt design for Stussy Japan, which for me was a dream come true, since I had loved the Stussy Brand since I was a teenager, doors were opening up for Lisa and I both locally and Internationally.
We started to get some attention in Thailand as well, soon we were communicating with various Thai Artist and friends over in Bangkok city, just planning out things.
In 2012 we got invited by Lotus Arts De Vivre to be a part of their event which was promoting Thai Street Food fusion and Street Art together, Lisa and I were the featured artist for this event and our artworks were also purchased during this event, this also lead us to another art show later on in the year at Bed Supper Club in Bangkok, which got very good media coverage and really opened up the doors for us doing art and collaborating more with Thai Business’s and Thai Artist, it was the real beginning of our cross cultural exchange between Thailand, we promoted our culture with Thailand’s culture to show how much we share in common and also to build friendships between our two cultures and to show that through creativity we can build bridges and not walls. Everything was just happening naturally for both Lisa and I, we were not going around asking to be in projects or asking if people needed their walls painted, we just kept doing what we do and that more jobs we did, the more people could see what we were doing and understanding our art more.
2012 was a very busy time of painting, I was also invited to paint in Hawaii for PowWow 2012 where many artist both local and international painted together, this was a great time as I was able to visually communicate my cross cultures with the people of Hawaii and also my artist friends in Hawaii. The culture of Hawaii shares many similarities with New Zealand’s Maori Culture, so I felt a real connection to Hawaii when I was painting there. In much the same way with Cambodia and Thailand who both share strong cultural links to one another, I wanted to created this feeling as well between our cultures here and erase away the animosity that sometimes Cambodia and Thailand have, of course not Every Cambodian and Thai person are like this to one another but there is a general perception of misunderstanding at times. But the more Lisa and I did projects in Thailand the more Thai friends and associates we built bounds with and the more understanding we have of another. This is the importance of Art, Music, Movies, Sports and Cultural events in all societies across the globe, it helps build a fun and interesting way to share one another’s cultures and build a better understanding of each other, Unity is KEY for the Human Race, it is how all people can thrive.
Lisa and I want to also show locals in Cambodia and also the outside world that we as Cambodians have modern day art that is valuable and has the power to sell and not just a country where everything is seen as cheap and can be bargained for but a country where we are worth something and have international standards in the creative scene, I’m not speaking for all of Cambodia but its both our vision that Lisa and I hold in life.
Over the many years now, Lisa and I have been able to establish our art quite well, with many projects that include painting for Cacha Hotel and CachaBed Hotel in Bangkok Thailand and also many projects in Thailand that has included working with Siam Discovery in Bangkok Thailand and countless other cross cultural projects also with Hotel Art Fair 2017 and 2018.
We were also very lucky to be invited to paint for Kuramathi Island Resort in the Maldives which was truly an amazing experience for us since we spent almost 1 Month painting there and enjoying the absolute beauty of the Maldives which was 2016 and year before that in 2015 Lisa and I got Married which has been amazing and also just after our wedding we were invited to Paris France by Digard Auction to paint for a street art event that included other Artist from around Asia, this was also very amazing and we were truly grateful for so many great opportunities and projects.
Art has given us opportunity to travel to many amazing and beautiful places and I’m so happy we can give something back to the world with our art that we can share with many people from many different backgrounds, I feel art brings the world together, creativity helps people to share experiences and build more understanding.
Early this year in 2020 we have had two great projects one in Thailand where we collaborated with BMW Thailand thanks to the wonderful people from ASSAJAN Collective.And also a project with Air Asia and Malaysian street Wear label Pestle Mortar Clothing “PMC”.
We also keep very busy with our own personal art projects as well and private art commissions.I hope our experience and story can inspire others to believe in your self and to always follow your passion in life, even if its seems more like a dream, but we dream so that we can make our own dreams true in life.
Are the pioneers of the Cambodian Street Art scene having kick started a movement that has now blossomed in the last 10 years ,their Style of Street Art has influenced both local and international artist who have come to reside and pursue their creative endeavors in the Kingdom of Cambodia plus help influence a art market for younger Khmer artist to have their art valued.
PEAP TARR is of mixed heritage Mother Cambodian and Father from Te Awamutu New Zealand Peap a Auckland Native has been for many years evolving his art style into his own creation by combining his New Zealand Heritage and Cambodian Heritage to create a unique form of street art with his signature and sinister yet tranquil works of art which has caught the attention of art lovers around the world and also gained respect from many of his art peers that has given Peap international recognition Peap’s art exists in a world where lightness and darkness battle, yet coexist in the same breath to balance each other and contrast against each other.
LISA MAM Cambodia’s first Khmer female Urban Street Artist And a pioneer of Cambodian Urban art a true trailblazer who has helped a new urban art movement grow here in her hometown of Phnom Penh city and she wants Khmer Graffiti /Street Art and also the creativeness of the future Khmer Modern Urban Art movement to be seen all around the world which she believes will help boost urban Khmer Art as officially being on the map which she believes will enhance Modern Khmer arts and culture and hopefully will make the youth of Cambodia and Khmer Youth around the world proud of their culture.
In more recent times Peap and Lisa have been able to merge their art with a business side having been able to spark a new Urban Art movement in Phnom Penh and brought new international attention to themselves and a focus to Phnom Penh Cambodia where they both reside and create.