Last week Yan Naing Tun brought in a new series of paintings featuring lines of photo-realistic monks on a blue contemporary background. Nothing new in painting monks in Myanmar, but these works were immediately arresting as the focal point of the works were the faces of the monks, depicted with angry or determined expressions. Yan Naing Tun explained to me that since the country opened up the Sangha (the monkhood) has become a political force, with some monks playing an activist role in the debates about the issues the country is facing. This strong series of works graphically show that tranquil contentment is not the only face of the Myanmar monk these days.
IN the depths of North Dagon, I visited the workshop Aung Ko had set up to produce his latest creations. A true pathmaker in the Myanmar art world, Aung Ko is pushing the envelope again with his life size sculptures of people frozen in poses of surprise and fear. His chosen medium is fiberglass, a first for a Myanmar artist. The process is lengthy – modeling in clay first, creating a plaster cast, and finally coating the inside of the cast with the fiberglass, before fitting the parts together and finishing the surface.
These sculptures are an accompaniment to the “We are Moving” series of large format paintings, which depict the frisson of shock and anxiety in a crowd of people when they learnt that a bomb had exploded nearby. The sculptures give an added dimension – literally – to his depiction of this scene.
They are destined for a solo show in Milan later this year, but before they head off, we will show them in River to give our local friends and artists a chance to see this pioneering new work.
With the World Economic Forum in Myanmar, the Young Global Leaders were interested in learning more about different aspects of the country's economic and cultural life. We helped the organizers develop a program for an "Art Learning Journey" which would give this group of highly accomplished professionals a quick appreciation of Myanmar's contemporary art scene. It was a bit like speed dating - there was a quick introduction, and then they were rushed off to the next thing. Together with some of our artist and gallerist friends, we hosted them in River during the morning then headed off to Lokanat Gallery to see Yangon's first art gallery, before having a special tour of The Secretariat - one of Yangon's most fabulous colonial buildings, which we hope will become the site of a future art museum. There was a brief midday visit to Padauk 7000, an experimental art space, and then onto Khin Zaw Lat's gallery to meet the younger generation of conceptual artists. It was a rewarding day for everyone;the YGL's had a glimpse of the challenges faced by artists in Myanmar, and our artists had the benefit of exchanges with successful professionals from other countries, all of whom had a keen appreciation of visual art.
The visitors bought with them and donated to the art community about 60 art books. These will reside with Ko Aung in the Pansodan Gallery until there is an Art Library as a permanent home.
Strong demand for works from south-east asian countries highlights a developing trend, as collectors turn their attention from the more established contemporary markets of China and Indian to the most talented artists of the smaller countries in the region. We expect that Myanmar will be included in this south-east asian category within the next 12 months.http://blogs.wsj.com/scene/2013/05/23/christies-spotlights-southeast-asian-art/
In an extended interview, Htein Lin talks about his journey as an artist, from his early days as a student through to his years in prison, to his current chapter living in the UK. At the end of the interview he reveals that he will be moving back to Myanmar in the coming months - something we at RIver are much looking forward to.www.artradarjournal.com