28 February 2011
Burma Captured on Canvas
Remember your journey to Myanmar in the most evocative way: by bringing home a work of art by one of the country's world-class painters.
They draw warm praise in London, New York and Hong Kong, and can fetch up to $20,000 apiece. Even one of the former Spice Girls, Melanie Chisholm, has one.
Paintings by Myanmar artists are emerging on the international art market, and winning prestigious competitions. But there's no better place to view and buy their works than on the home turf of many - Yangon, already a major centre for visual arts in Southeast Asia.
"The art gallery scene is flourishing in Yangon,"says Gill Pattison, a New Zealander who manages one of the finest, River Gallery.
"The development is partly interest from abroad, as collectors and dealers hear whispers of this exciting new art market, and partly from local collectors who have become much more active in the past few years."
A number of the galleries, most located in downtown Yangon, suburban Golden Valley and along Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, have been established by successful artists. Beikthano is owned by Tin Win, whose abstract canvases and more recent detailed, colorful portraits of Burma's hilltribes have also been exhibited elsewhere in Asia, Australia and the United States. Min Wae Aung, who lightened Melanie's bank account and is perhaps the country's most famous painter, owns New Treasure Art. With more than 50 international exhibitions to his credit, he is best known for his stylised depictions of Buddhist monks on striking gold backgrounds.
"Talented new artists are emerging all the time, and they are inspired by the success of some of their peers," says Ms. Pattison, citing Mor Mor, a female artist, Khin Zaw Latt and Zaw Win Pen, who all scored in recent international competitions. Other names to watch for include Khine Minn Soe, known for striking portraits such as Shan Girl (pictured top centre). Myo Nyunt Khin, Ba Khine, whose Monastery Shelter is pictured top left, and Win Tint, each capture the country's vibrant life and colours while Moe Nyo, employs a softer palette as seen in Reflection of Serenity (pictured top right).
This artistic flowering began in the early 1990s following economic liberalisation and an opening up to the outside world. Thavibu Gallery in Thailand, which specialises in Southeast Asian art, says that sales for works by Myanmarian artists outpace those from Vietnam or Thailand. It notes: "The Myanmarian works may have an immediate, fresh appeal because they come from a country that has been isolated for a long time."
By David Brandt, a Bangkok-based writer who has ranged all over Asia for many years.
Please share details of your favourite arts and crafts in Myanmar.