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Posts Tagged ‘Burmese artists’

Unapologetically political Burmese artist Chaw Ei Thein discusses her country and her art: Asia Art Archive interview

Posted by artradar on June 29, 2010


MYANMAR ART BURMESE ART ASIA ART ARCHIVE ARTIST INTERVIEW

After growing up under Myanmar‘s military junta, Burmese artist Chaw Ei Thein‘s works is unapologetically political. In a recent interview with Asia Art Archive the artist speaks about the connection between her art and the politics in Myanmar as well as her hopes for the future of Burmese art.

Although she received several art awards as a child, Thein did not pursue art as a career until after graduating university with a law degree in 1994.  Thein became interested in performace art in the late 1990’s and began to create her own works with encouragement from more experienced performance artists.

Artists Chaw Ei Thein and Htein Lin at Lin's London exhibition

Artists Chaw Ei Thein and Htein Lin at Lin's London exhibition.

In 2004, Thein took part in the Nippon International Performance Art Festival (NIPAF) which she credits as opening the door for her involvement in the performance art community. During the interview with Asia Art Archive she does not hesitate to humbly thank her mentors for such opportunities.

“I did my very first street performance in Tokyo – and I still thank Seiji Shimoda and Aye Ko for giving me this great opportunity… Seiji Shimoda and NIPAF have played an important role in engaging Asian and international artists, to work together and create more networks. This was how I got the chance to network and make contacts with many Asian and western artists”

From this point, her career as a performance artist took off. She participated in several other major art festivals such as Open in Beijing in 2007. In addition to performance, Thein maintained an interest in several other mediums ranging from painting to installation.

Regardless of the medium she chooses, the political nature of her work remains a constant. At times, Thein even feels limited by her drive to reflect on the current climate in her homeland.

Thein's performance piece at NARS Open Studios event, May 15, 2010

Thein's performance piece at NARS Open Studios event in May 2010.

“Whenever I try to create something, it just appears in my mind as relating to my country’s current situation – my friends who are still in prison, and the people in Burma… I cannot get away from this issue, even today. I don’t know how to change the subject to create something else. That is my own problem, and the conflict within me”

The politcally minded Thein also elaborates on her struggles with automatic self-censorship even when working outside of Myanmar. For those artists who grew up in Myanmar and now have the chance to work abroad, concern for friends and family back home affects the kind of art they create. Fear of retaliation against loved ones living in Myanmar leads Thein to think carefully about what kind of art she she displays in public in any location.

Chaw Ei Thein, MEs, Performance, 2003

Chaw Ei Thein in a 2003 performance piece.

” I am a Burmese artist living under a military junta, I am used to being limited with what I can and cannot create inside Burma… There is a problem now whenever I want to create something: I have controlled myself already, automatically. …These “fears” and “worries” control me even when I am creating art outside of Burma.”

Being faced with the task of connecting the creative and political aspects of her art, Thein has developed ways to show subtle but powerful connections between the two. Though the artist worries that some of these connections may be lost on Western audiences, the conditions in Mayanmar are on her mind daily and show up in her art just as often.

“How can I help do something for the people who cannot speak out about what is happening in my country? I cannot escape these thoughts – that is why all of my paintings and performances are mostly about this.”

It is clear that the artist also has a passion for art education, a field that she feels is underdeveloped in Myanmar, especially in rural areas. In addition to preparing for upcoming shows, including a collaborative show with Htein Lin in November, Thein’s current activities include readying her second children’s’ book on art.

When asked by Asia Art Archive what she would improve in Myanmar’s art scene Thein’s answers reflect her desire to bring art to the people.

“Most people think about having art activities in cities like Rangoon (Yangon). I am more interested in doing it in other regions and places. It could be anywhere…”

Chaw Ei Thein, HeShe I, Acrylic on Paper, 2007

Chaw Ei Thein, 'HeShe I', acrylic on paper, 2007.

Even with all of this, Thein doesn’t take herself too seriously. She is constantly moving from city to city, still unsure of where to settle down and seemingly not too anxious to make this decision. For her, art is not about formality or rules, it is simply about making the art that she wants to create.  Whether people applaud her or not, she continues to create powerful and moving pieces on her own terms.

Read the full article on Asia Art Archive

EH/KN

Related Topics: Southeast Asian artistsperformance art, political artactivist art

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Posted in Collage, Human Body, Installation, Myanmar/Burmese, Oil, Painting, Performance, Political, Prison, Public art, Sculpture, Social, Southeast Asian | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Myanmar artists explore new media, produce courageous art

Posted by artradar on April 13, 2009


MYANMAR ART

Asian Art News reports that some Burmese artists are bravely stepping outside the restrictions of censors and the pressures of the tourist market to create a new kind of art. Three commercial Thai galleries are supporting them: Suvannabhumi Gallery and La Luna in Chang Mai and Thavibu Gallery in Bangkok.

Aye Ko

Aye Ko

“While Myanmar has a thriving art scene there is an overwhelming predominance of generic Asian subject matter. Rather sentimental and nostalgic the golden temple spires, monks …and busy market scenes…satisfy the narrow tourist demands as well as placating the military junta” writes Steven Pettifor.

However earlier this year Jorn Middleborg worked with Malaysian art historian Shireen Naziree to curate a different kind of show.

The exhibition was called Speaking Alone and incorporated live performances, videos and mixed media works by four important Myanmar artists: Aung Myint, Aye Ko, Phyu Mon and emerging young artist Nyein Chan Su.

Aung Myint

Aung Myint

Aung Myint is regarded by some to be the ‘father of modernism’ in Myanmar. Aung Myint, who lost his mother as an infant, is widely known in S E Asia  for his black and white simple line drawings of mother and child. Examples can be found in museums in Singapore, Malaysa and Japan.

Aye Ko has had some international exposure with a solo exhibition in New York in 2002 and more recently in Europe as part of Thermocline of Art, New Asian Waves 2007. He has produced digital prints of multiple figures daubed in black, white and red looking wild and untamed. See a clip of his video Transfixed: Silent Escape.

Phyu Mon, Hope

Phyu Mon, Hope

Phyu Mon is the only female artist in the show and works in paint, video, performance and poetry and her artwork is concerned with expressing hope and uses symbolism to express disagreement with the ruling party.

Nyein Chan Su has produced a new series People in which inkjet print portraits of fellow activist artists – agreeing to pose was a courageous act – are overlaid with red lettering to parody official stamps. See clip of Nyein Chan Su video: Goldfish.

Asian Art News has published a thorough review and full information about the art scene and artists as well as an interview with Shireen Naziree. It is well worth a read but is only available in print direct from the publisher or a library such as Asia Art Archive.

Nyein Chan Su, People

Nyein Chan Su, People

Here is a small selection of notable points:

Art schools

There are only a couple of major art school based in Mandalay and Yangon which focus on early modernist theory. This somewhat formal and rigid training has caused artists to become self-taught or take private lessons.

Performance art

During traditional religious Nat ceremonies there are performances where worshippers go into a trance so in this sense Myanmar has a long history of performance art says curator Shireen Naziree. This medium has become popular with artists in recent years perhaps because it is cheap and informal and mobile so can easily sidestep the attention of censors says Jorn Middleborg.

Constraints on art scene in Myanmar

Due to political isolation, artists lack exposure to new art trends and they have limited access to information and funding. The economic situation constrains their ability to buy materials and the lack of English prevents Myanmar artists taking up residencies abroad.

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Posted in Bangkok, Gallery shows, Myanmar/Burmese, New Media, Photography, Political, Southeast Asian, Thailand | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »