Burmese contemporary art

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Myanmar (Burma) is a country in Southeast Asia which has endured isolation from 1962 - 2011. It is also a country with deep rooted Buddhist beliefs. The contemporary art scene in the country reflects these facts, and the art is often related to Buddhism and the difficult socio-political situation. In this age of globalization, Burmese contemporary art has developed rather on its own terms.


One of the first to study western art was Ba Nyan. Together with Ngwe Gaing and a handful of other artists, they were pioneers of western painting style in Burma. Later, most of the students learnt from masters through apprenticeship. Some well known contemporary artists are mentioned below.

Lun Gywe (born 1930)[1] is the undisputed old master of Burmese painting. He has been the mentor of many younger generations of artists. Lun Gywe is a master with colours, often in an impressionistic manner, and is particularly fond of painting the beauty of women. His works are represented in the National Museum of Myanmar and the National Art Gallery of Malaysia.

Art spaces[edit]


Aung Kyaw Htet (born 1965) is a devout Buddhist who grew up in a small village—two factors which have a strong influence on his art. His paintings of religious life in Burma show monks and nuns in a realistic manner, though non-essential objects are omitted from the paintings to focus on the religious aspects. Aung Kyaw Htet paints the faces of monks and nuns in great detail to show their humanity. His works are represented in the National Museum of Myanmar and the National Art Gallery of Malaysia.

Four additional artists who were found worthy to have their works included in the permanent collection of the National Art Gallery of Malaysia (the country's contemporary art museum) are MPP Yei Myint, Myint Swe, Min Wai Aung and Aung Myint.

The younger generation of upcoming international contemporary artists include Nyein Chan Su and The Maw Naing and the Gangaw Village Artist Group.

Now there are many contemporary artists such as Po Po. Po Po (born 1957) lives and works in Yangon. He studied art himself (he describes himself as self-taught) and works with various media especially with installation works. He has staged solo exhibitions since 1987; they include “Untitled” and “Solid Concept” among others. He participated in the Kwangju Biennale 2000, the Flying Circus Project 2004 and Yokohama Triennale 2005.

Wah Nu was born in Yangon in 1977, and launched herself on an artistic career after graduating from the University of Culture, Yangon in 1998 where she majored in music. Since then she has developed a personal expression by mainly adopting painting and video as media. In 2004, she held the exhibition “Cloud Department” in Yangon. That is her first solo exhibition and then 2005, “Self-Identity” second in gallery Art-U room,[2] Tokyo, Japan. She showed in group exhibitions including Bangladesh Biennale 2004, Fukuoka Triennale 2005[3] and Another Seven Artists in Yangon 2008. Recently, she participate in The 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane with her husband, artist, Tun Win Aung, who works in multimedia installations and performance arts.

Most of the young artists who were born in the 1980s have greater chances of art practises inside and outside the country. Performance art is a popular genre among Burmese young artists. Aung Ko, Moe Satt, Mrat Lunn Htwann and Nyan Lin Htet are some of the promising artists. Among them, Nyan Lin Htet started making performance art works in early 2000s and later he joined the contemporary theatre group Annees Folles for intensive theatre training with Japanese theatre director Arata Kitamura in Japan. Since 2005, Lin Htet has been actively involved in international performance art and theatre scenes. After founding the Yangon-based experimental theatre group Theatre of the Disturbed in 2005, Lin Htet directed theatrical adaptations of dramatic and literary works by Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco and Franz Kafka as well as dramatic works by local playwrights including himself. In 2007, he was awarded the 2-year Artist-in-residency programme at the Cité internationale des arts in Paris with the support of Alliance Française de Rangoun and Ministry of Foreign Affairs-France. Lin Htet has been recognized not only as the most promising Burmese contemporary theatre artist but as one of the few promoters of contemporary Burmese art and theatre. He is currently based in Europe.

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  1. ^ U Lun Gywe — A Master Painter from Myanmar. Thavibu Gallery, 2005. ISBN 974-92905-6-9.
  2. ^ Wah Nu Archived 2010-03-12 at the Wayback Machine, Art-U room.
  3. ^ 3rd Fukuoka Triennale 2005, Fukuoka, Japan, 2005.

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