October 2017: Than Kyaw Htay - Silent Moves
Addressing the raw and divisive subject of migration, Than Kyaw Htay has created a series of paintings of grave beauty and pathos. The artworks evoke a strong emotional response to the plight of today's migrant - we sense the migrant's fear, their resignation, their determination to carry on, and the dimming of their individuality as they give themselves up to the imperatives of the group. We are reminded of the description of migrants to America engraved on the Statue of Liberty - "... give me your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free..." Painted before the current mass movement of people out of northern Rakhine, the works pack a powerful punch today as we witness the heartbreaking separation of people from their anchored lives, moving with deep anxiety into a fearful future. And yet...the indistinct figures are depicted in gold, embellished with handmade Shan paper, which gives the crowd of silhouettes a texture and a certain coherence. All is not lost...perhaps a brighter future awaits. Than Kyaw Htay's art has often addressed larger, humanitarian issues. One of his first series showed the backs of Pa-O people, looking out into empty, tilting landscapes. Speaking about these works, the artist said, "The world has turned its back on Myanmar, so the people turn their back on the world." Later, the Silent Sweat works show Rakhine women carrying water pots on their heads with the crumbling temples of Mrauk-Oo in the background, both symbolizing how this remote corner of Myanmar has been shamefully neglected. Than Kyaw Htay's works wrap these uncomfortable narratives in paintings of subtle beauty. We cannot help but admire his mature artistic skills in the bold compositions and assured lines and forms. He always leaves us with unanswered questions, but we console ourselves with glorious artworks that banish the banal and make us look at the world in a new way.
Here is the e-catalogue of the show;