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Myanmar’s artists back in the spotlight

Press release   •   Mar 12, 2012 03:59 EDT

We noted a couple of weeks ago the political situation in Burma, or Myanmar, whichever one you’d like to call it. Positive steps for the liberalisation of the country in the political realm only mean positive things for the economy and, more importantly, artists and the cultural sphere. We’re now seeing early reports that artists are starting to feel more inspired, while they’re also hoping more tourists and visitors will help increase the value of their oil paintings and other artwork. Hey, they have to eat, and when the average price of a painting is stuck at USD$350 for the past 10 years or so, you’d really want the same thing.

Not much up-to-date information exists about the Burmese contemporary art scene since the crackdown on freedom in the country in the successive military coups, but some news has leaked out to the outside world. The leading and most well known painter currently is Lun Gywe, who was born in 1930 and has achieved popularity, especially in Asia. Lun Gywe is a bit of a Burmese Gustav Klimt – he loves to use gold, paints with bright colours and often features oil paintings that feature beautiful women.

Another leading artist is Aung Kyaw Htet, who was born in 1965. Aung is somewhat the opposite of Gywe – a devout Buddhist, his images feature the famous Burmese monks and nuns as they go about their everyday lives. Aung mostly stays away from the political activities of the monks, instead focusing on their humanist and religious aspects. Again, like Gywe, he is well known and has had his work bought and collected by the Singaporean, Malaysia, Thai and Australia national art galleries.

The aforementioned artists are the rear guard, the slightly older in age that have seen the best times and arguably the worst. There exist a younger generation of artists who aim to change Burma and the world with their oil paintings and other art on canvas creations. Take for example Nyein Chan Su and The Maw Naing. Nyein is a particularly interesting artist. The founder of one of Burma’s largest artist collectives, Studio Square, said it would take some time for people to properly and freely express themselves and that artists could help. “We have been under this system for over 30 years. We don’t know whether the government has given us freedom or not. We are still psychologically in this system. There is a deep rooted mindset in the Myanmar people because of the difficult years we have had in our government. We need to erase this image. The government must change the paradigm and only then will we change.”

Revolution doesn’t always start with the government – look at the French and Russian revolution. We’d say that Nyein himself, and his creativity, is all the force needed to change the mindsets of people in the world’s newest democracy. Good luck to Nyein – may his realistic oil paintings of Burma’s poor countryside and crime-ridden streets inspire the people to think about a better way of life, one where they are free to express themselves.

Olivia Preston is passionate about everything on paintings and arts. When she's not having fun she writes on oil paintings. For more information on and oil painting reproductions you can visit http://www.cheapoilpainting.com