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Rare contemporary art from Myanmar showcased in India

By:  Tupaki Desk   |   20 Feb 2013 3:40 AM GMT
The colours of Myanmar are vivid, realistic and a little abstract on its contemporary canvas and, for the first time, collectively on display in India.

A rare group exhibition by five emerging artists, "From Myanmar with Love", at the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS) Feb 19-24 has brought to the capital glimpses of new art practices and contemporary realities in modern Myanmar, coping with change.
The participating artists include five leading names, Aung Myint, K. Kyaw, Maung Aw, Than Kyaw Htay and Zaw Win Pe, who had exhibited solo at the Alliance Francaise in the capital in 2012. Presented by the Calcutta Arts Club, a South Asian arts promotion platform, the exhibition is trying to raise awareness about contemporary art from Myanmar and build a buyers' base in India, a growing market for art.

The fledgling democracy in Myanmar, which was ruled by a military junta for more than five decades, is yet to find an artistic idiom that showcases its socio-cultural character in all its diversity despite the variety of mediums the tribe of young artists is experimenting with, critics say.

Technically, the new Myanmarese art is being described as superior to that of its smaller neighbours in Southeast Asia, critics say.

Contemporary art from Myanmar, though not yet popular in India, is sought after in the Asian art capitals of Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and across Europe and the US.

"The artists who are exhibiting their works were recommended to me by galleries and collectors from Singapore and Europe. This exhibition will travel to at least six cities in India through the year," Calcutta Arts Club co-owner Abhishek Basu told IANS.

Last year, the Club had carried a showcase from Myanmar to five cities in Europe and this summer, "the travelling exhibition is likely to go to London.

"Bookings for the works started even before the show was unveiled in the capital. I had posted an e-catalogue on the Internet," the promoter said.

At a preview Tuesday, Basu sold two of the paintings to local buyers, who elicited curiosity about contemporary art from Myanmar. The prices range from Rs.85,000 to Rs. 640,000, Basu said, adding the artworks would be replenished as the show travels around the country.

Myanmar has two major fine arts schools - the State School of Fine Arts in Yangon and in Mandalay under the National University of Arts and Culture.

"Younger artists experiment with mediums and practise at the art schools," Basu said. Most of the art traditions are still indigenous in nature outside the cities with Buddhist influences.

Contemporary realities that artists address in their works are close to the daily lives of the common Myanmarese lot - varying from their livelihoods, markets, education, struggle for rights and Buddhism and, of course, nature.

The seniormost artist in the group, Zaw Win Pe, a 52-year-old painter, came to the forefront of Myanmar's art scene with his "vibrant landscapes inspired by the country's northeastern Shan state". Colour is the dominant component of his art works - Pe uses acrylic colours to create impasto (thick) abstractions in geometric shapes of hills, rivers and valleys which make up Shan state.

Maung Aw, another of Myanmar's senior artists, who learnt under master Saya U Thein Han of the State School of Fine Arts, is a colourist.

In two series of works on display, "Women Dressing" and "Turbaned Kids", he has painted full figures of women and children in acrylic colours capturing the physical of beauty of the ethnic people, their traditional attires and the battle of emancipation that the democratic society is waking up to. He has exhibited in the US and in Hong Kong.