Art Radar profiles four promising artists from Myanmar whose work merits attention.
Myanmar’s Yone Arts features four Burmese artists at the inaugural edition of the START art fair. The fair will take place from 26 to 29 June 2014 at the Saatchi Gallery in London.
Co-founded by Asian art patrons David and Serenella Ciclitira, the START art fair is a platform for young galleries from emerging art markets all over the world, and as such provides international exposure for Burmese contemporary art, among others. Apart from Myanmar, the fair will showcase artworks from other Southeast Asian countries, as well as Australia, Azerbaijan, China, India, Italy, Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.
Contemporary art in Myanmar
In Myanmar, democratic reforms and the easing of censorship have led to a flourishing local contemporary art scene. The merging of Buddhist concepts with Western styles, addressing socio-political issues more directly and maintaining the techniques of Burmese traditional art have all caught the attention of galleries and collectors abroad.
Brang Li, Kaung Su, Ohn Ohn and Soe Naing are the Burmese artists to be showcased at the START art fair by Yone Arts Myanmar. Their works are daring, insightful, somewhat humorous and require exceptional technique.
Brang Li belongs to the new generation of Young Blood artists. His work combines elements of traditional Burmese art and modern Western art. The traditional aspects of his art involve the adaptation of the bold outlines of customary Burmese embroidery and woodwork, as well as influences from his Kachin background.
Brang Li’s iconographic works with their bold lines resemble digital illustrations, graffiti and other popular art. He also experiments with unconventional materials. In his “Existence Without Life” series, for example, he makes use of acrylic paint and soot to depict headless figures that emphasise the clouding of senses in a society ruled by dictatorship.
Through his straightforward style, the artist conveys relateable human issues. Brang Li has exhibited in several galleries and spaces in Myanmar.
Kaung Su wears many hats – he is a painter, performance artist, filmmaker, as well as a writer and a promoter of Burmese contemporary art. He also organises international art exchanges. After studying art under local painter Pyi Soe Myint and attending Yangon’s State School of Fine Art, Kaung Su took part in several exhibitions in his own country and abroad. He has completed residencies in Chiang Mai (Thailand) with the Heinrich Böll Foundation and in New York with the Apexart Foundation.
Kaung Su’s international exposure has influenced him to explore complex issues such as human duality, identity and matters concerning nature and society. In addition, his ventures abroad led to the use of Western techniques and historical imagery in his work. Not only is Kaung Su active in the international scene, he also founded the Earth Rise Art Space in Yangon and is part of New Zero Art Space’s Board of Directors.
Born in Htonbo, Bago, Ohn Ohn has a meticulous process. Taught by Myanmar master artists such as Ma Sandar Khaing and influenced by Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, she has developed an impressive style that brings together the archetypes and technical skills of Burmese tradition and Klimt’s symbolic and ornamental approach.
In her “My Yellow Rhythm” series, the artist uses ochre and black to project Bagan temple images and plays with chiaroscuro and the layering of oils to create wistful yet restrained paintings. Ohn Ohn was a finalist in the Annual Tun Foundation’s Best Paintings of the Year 2012 and, like Brang Li, is part of the new generation of Young Blood artists.
Soe Naing (b. 1961) is a Zoology graduate, but he also studied painting for a year under U Lun Gywe and U Thein Han in the early 1980s. A prolific abstract artist, Soe Naing believes that people are the products of their surroundings. His uncertain strokes and excellent colour combinations are, therefore, the result of the happenings in Burmese society, which include the transition from dictatorship to democracy.
Soe Naing’s approach is spontaneous and open to overlapping and erasures, often creating beast-like figures and messy blends. He has previously exhibited in Amsterdam, Beijing and Singapore.
- Myanmar’s art education: Out with the old, in with the new – February 2014 – Myanmar’s artists are beginning to question the traditional art education system, proposing new models for learning and creating in the globalised art world
- Currency Crisis: Southeast Asian artists talk money in Bangkok – picture feast – November 2013 – “Currency Crisis” presents six artists who address new ways of thinking about the value, function and materiality of money
- Burma’s Flying Circus: Tun Win Aung and Wah Nu – interview – October 2013 – Myanmar husband and wife artist duo Tun Win Aung and Wah Nu talk to Art Radar about the life of artists in Myanmar and the ideas behind their work
- Freedom to create: Myanmar’s artists explore an open society – September 2013 – Founder of Myanmar Art Nathalie Johnston gives an overview of how Burmese artists are embracing innovations in technology and turning their practice towards new media art
- Myanmar’s rural museums – Tun Win Aung and Wah Nu Guggenheim video interview – September 2013 – husband-and-wife artists Tun Win Aung and Wah Nu talk about working together and transforming abandoned barns into exhibition spaces in ‘Museum Project’
Subscribe to Art Radar for more on emerging artists from Southeast Asia