Pich was born in Cambodia in 1971, the year after Nixon and Kissinger’s ‘sideshow’ bombing and invasion of that country (during the Vietnam War), which lead to civil war and the ultimate triumph of the Khmer Rouge. After Vietnam defeated the horrifically cruel Khmer Rouge government in a two-week-long war in 1978/79, and occupied Cambodia, Pich’s family was able to make its way as refugees to the US and relocated in Amherst, Massachusetts. After receiving degrees from Massachusetts and the Art Institute of Chicago, Pich (who had always missed the country he had known as a child) chose to return to Cambodia in the early 2000s, almost immediately after another Cambodian civil war, and has maintained his studio there since that time.
At Massachusetts he jokingly said: “I want to make work that I don’t have to explain.” He does not approach a work with a fixed meaning and, in fact, works to take meaning out of his art, yet he realizes that his pieces do communicate to others and that the work itself will often tell what it means. Pich states that, more than anything, he seeks freedom in the artistic process, allowing the work to sometimes lead him, trusting in the accidental and unexpected. He is not in total control but he is connected and often brought to another level of understanding.
Knowing that the artist is not putting meaning into his work has an effect, of course, on how we approach his work. It makes us keenly aware of the interpretive process we continually bring with us to galleries and museums. We realize more precisely what we believe ‘meaning’ is or can be in a piece of art and we have to wonder whether this is sufficient or truly meaningful. It’s a new twist on what Duchamp and Cage were doing, I’m guessing, with ready-mades and chance-operations pieces. In both cases Duchamp and Cage were saying we can derive a ‘symbolic’ interpretation from almost anything and we seem to love doing this - put a snow shovel in an art gallery and it’s no longer a snow shovel, it’s now an analog or metaphor for something inside us.