Aung Myint (b. 1946), one of the most influential and pioneering Myanmar modern artists since the 1970s, is celebrated for his unique contributions to the transition of modern art in postcolonial Burma to a more contemporary trajectory. He rejected Western-based artistic practices of realism or impressionism to embrace concepts, form, colour and line, while incorporating elements from Burmese script and Bagan temple paintings alongside his personal history, to produce one of the most unique collections of modern painting from Southeast Asia. This exhibition is another milestone in the gallery’s twenty-plus year history of showcasing art from Myanmar.
Primarily self-taught, like many experimental artists of his generation, Aung Myint discovered modern art, including abstraction, impressionism, and cubism, through books, movies, and magazines that pierced then-Socialist Burma’s (1962-1988) isolationist borders. In 1989, following the brutal crackdown on the 8 August 1988 student uprising for democratic and economic reforms, Aung Myint, alongside San Minn and other artists, opened Inya Art Gallery at his home to create a gallery space dedicated to modern art, beyond the reach of state censors who remained wary about
modern art masking criticism of the state.
There, he created and exhibited his paintings, installations, and sculptures, while nurturing the next generation of modern artists.
The fifteen paintings in this exhibition, primarily from Aung Myint’s personal collection, capture a pivotal style transition in his career. In 1996, amid increased censorship of the visual arts, Aung Myint disassociated himself from any singular artistic movement and commenced a more liberated approach to his canvases. The frenetic brushstrokes of his abstract expressionist period (1969-1995) became distilled to minimalistic canvases that reflected distinct patterns, images, and lines centered on singular concepts. Colours worked in unison, pushing, and pulling patterns and forms into focus.
Aung Myint also activated colours to perform key conceptual roles in his paintings. Red, black, and white dominated his canvases, with each embodying distinct emotions or symbols. Soon, he became one of the first artists in Myanmar to incorporate performance art to reach audiences through new channels, further shaping the trajectory of experimental art and influencing
Myanmar’s future performance artists.
Also featured in the exhibition is a rare group of paintings, including an inadvertent self-portrait, that capture Aung Myint’s shift to using lines, colour, and forms to convey distinct human emotions. His painting Expression #2 exemplifies this interest in finding alternatives to convey the human condition without triggering state censorship. Aung Myint notes, “When it is done, I noticed it looks like my face. Sometimes this kind of thing comes out naturally as it stays inside.”
This exhibition also includes recent works from his award-winning ‘Mother and Child’ series. Just as colours became imbued with meaning in Aung Myint’s paintings, he also had to contend with government censors who scanned paintings for the use of colours as pointed political protest. Soon, he retreated to a palette of black and white, and started painting a new version of his long- standing ‘Mother and Child’ series that portrayed a mother cradling her infant.
However, he diluted the figures of a mother and child, previously depicted in cubist or impressionistic forms, with a single, unbroken black line painted on handmade paper from Shan State. Here, Aung Myint created a unique style of painting all his own, with echoes of Bagan temple mural paintings and Burmese script yet melded with his personal loss of his mother as an infant. He then replicated the linear figure of mother and child, and created sculptures from found objects, sand, mud, wood, and ceramics.
Director Stephanie Braun observes, “Karin Weber Gallery debuted Aung Myint’s paintings to Hong Kong viewers in 2003 with his solo exhibition of the ‘Mother and Child’ Series and again in 2007. Since then, we featured Aung Myint’s work in three group exhibitions. With each decade, Aung Myint’s role as a pioneer of avant-garde art in Myanmar becomes that much more apparent. His style is inimitable with each canvas, each colour, each line capturing a distinct period in Myanmar’s modern art history.”
Director Kenneth Young notes, “Many of the paintings in our current exhibition are from Aung Myint’s personal collection, selected by him and his daughter, or from private collections. We are proud to present them together and commemorate this important chapter in his career as a ‘liberated artist’, free from any art movements or schools, and during a period where colour becomes a new language within his paintings.”
Today, Aung Myint continues to paint and nurture a new generation of avant- garde artists at Inya Gallery. Aung Myint observes, “My current style changes because of my age. I just create something that I have in mind in the way that my body can follow. I just let it flow as my mind goes. Everything becomes without intention. If you create abstract art, everything has to become natural with no intention.”
About the Artist:
Aung Myint (male, b. 1946) is considered the pioneer of Burma’s experimental art movement and addresses social commentary through performance, installation, and abstract and semi-abstract paintings. In a career spanning more than fifty years, Aung Myint has staged more than sixty shows in Burma and exhibited extensively throughout Asia, Europe and the US. His works are in the collection of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the National Art Gallery of Malaysia, the Singapore Art Museum, and the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan and private collections worldwide.. Aung Myint was also the first Burmese artist to win a prize from the ASEAN Art Awards in 2002, with a set of nine paintings from his Mother and Child series.
11th June to 9th July 2022
Karin Weber Gallery
20 Aberdeen Street
Central, Hong Kong