May 16, 2007 – June 17, 2007
By: Myanmar Contemporary Artists
Gallery plan b, in cooperation with River Gallery (Rangoon, Burma), is very pleased to present a rare exhibition of paintings from Myanmar’s leading contemporary artists including Nann Nann, Khin Zaw Latt, Maung Aw, Soe Soe, and Than Kyaw Htay.
This group of artists is brought to the United States by Gill Pattison, a New Zealander, who has been a resident in Myanmar for the past five years. Ms. Pattison became involved with the contemporary art scene in the region when she sponsored and organized (in conjunction with the Myanmar Times) a national competition for Myanmar artists in 2004. The competition identified many of the best Myanmar artists––both established and emerging––several of which will be part of this exhibition at plan b. Her aim in promoting these artists was to bring their art to a wider audience...not only the tourists who visited Myanmar but also to an international audience. To this end, plan b is one of several galleries she has selected in organizing exhibitions and shows abroad. Previous exhibits were held on the west coast in San Francisco and Palm Springs and here on the east coast in Princeton, New Jersey, where Gill led a seminar on the importance of this art to the world.
The West knows little about this beautiful but troubled country of 55 million people, nestled between China and India, governed by a reclusive military dictatorship that has held power for over forty years. Myanmar’s art has a surprisingly modern feel. The creative tension evident in many of the best works results from the artist’s struggle to find the means of portraying their rich culture in new and different ways. The exhibition focuses on subjects taken from Myanmar’s rich cultural and religious heritage and the country’s largely unspoiled physical beauty. Icons and symbols of Buddhism, seen everywhere in Burma, predominate in this show. By necessity, most Myanmar artists remain cautious in their choice of subject, generally avoiding themes that might be construed as overtly political or critical of the regime. But these restrictions have a surprising up-side: in focusing on what they see around them, the art has a purity and spirituality that is often absent in the art of emerging nations, where the portrayal of conflict is often to the fore.
While this current generation of artists chooses their subject matter carefully, they are paving the way for those to follow, who will face fewer restrictions. And perhaps, for us the audience, there is a silver lining in the self-censorship of the Burmese artists...their focus on the beauty of their traditions and on the scenes and motifs from a unique culture that is fast disappearing in other parts of Asia, by creating distinctive works of art which convey the essence of their deeply felt cultural and spiritual heritage.
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