Exploring the World of Controversial Myanmar Modernist Art

Posted in Lifestyle, Entertainment

You know what they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words!" Art is a beautiful thing that can show us impressions, landscapes, and the soul of an era in ways words just can't capture. And get this—it's been around since way before writing, like those cool drawings our ancestors made on cave walls! In the 20th century, art took a leap into modern techniques from the traditional ones. So, let's dive into this article and check out three awesome modern artists from Myanmar!

[Illustration of Ngwe Tar Yee Magazine (1969), Literary Artist's day]

1- Bagyi Aung Soe (1924-1990)

When it comes to Myanmar art and aesthetics, Bagyi Aung Soe is an indispensable name from the early era of Myanmar modern art in the twentieth century. His modernist works with a touch of Indian style have had a significant influence to the twentieth century art landscape. The name of Bagyi Aung Soe reflects his status as a foremost and outstanding genius of Myanmar's modernist era, admired by Myanmar artists, enthusiasts, and art lovers alike. Check out some of his remarkable artworks, including illustrations and cover designs, on his website: https://www.aungsoeillustrations.org/ 

- plants, traditional-style leaves, flowery and clouds, pier and water that reflect Myanmar traditional life, palm-tree climber and sun, farmer and oxen, child and family with ragged clothes, traditional topknot and palm-leaf manuscript, eight Wah-alphabets, sun-shaped signature of Bagyi Aung Soe

- this illustration embodies the socio-economic status, employment and daily life of Myanmar around 1960    

Htoo Eain Thin portrayed by Khin Maung Yin 2- Khin Maung Yin (1938-2014)

Khin Maung Yin, a second-generation artist, followed in the footsteps of modernist pioneers like Bagyi Aung Soe and U Khin Maung (Bank). With a background as an architect, he found inspiration in painting the magnificent temples and pagodas of Bagan. When it came to portraits, Khin Maung Yin skillfully blended Myanmar traditions like traditional dancers, village girls, and the classic ponytail with modernist techniques and a touch of Western style.

His art was a symphony of colors, and he believed that art is, in essence, all about colors. As time went on, he lovingly portrayed the people dear to him through his artwork. Khin Maung Yin was truly an embodiment of the artist's life, with an unwavering passion for art, architecture, music, and poetry. Let's explore some of his remarkable artworks, which beautifully capture the essence of his creative journey. 

-Khin Maung Yin often painted beloved and respected people around him, including the famous vocalist Htoo Eain Thin, Thakhin Kotaw Mhine, Khin One, among others.

- He used modern patterns and experimental color combinations in his portraits, rather than conventional methods.

- He attempted to reflect the personalities of the subjects in his portraits through contours and colors.

- Apart from portraits, Khin Maung Yin's signature style is abstract art that aims to capture inner reflections, rather than drawing shapes and objects. "Such improvised creations without any logical thinking are a perfect freedom," he once said in an interview. 

Cherished Children Figures of Paw Oo Thet [BBC Burmese]

3-Paw Oo Thet (1936-1993) - An Artist with a Unique Comic Touch

Paw Oo Thet is one of the pioneers who left a lasting mark on Myanmar's modernist art scene, gaining recognition not just locally, but on the global stage too. What sets him apart, like the renowned Bagyi Aung Soe, is his remarkable blend of traditional and modern techniques in art. However, what truly makes Paw Oo Thet stand out are his distinctive large-mouthed characters portrayed in a comical style that is uniquely his own. Experts have praised his skillful portrayal of folklores, which strike a chord with the public's hearts. Unlike Bagyi Aung Soe's bold approach, Paw Oo Thet's technique is subtle, aiming to harmonize modern practices with traditional art. His artistic talents were diverse, encompassing various genres such as impressionism, cubism, and abstract art. Yet, it is his watercolor artworks with a comical touch that have seen the greatest success.

  • This watercolor painting by Paw Oo Thet has become one of his most famous creations. Those large-mouthed children are so iconic that everyone recognizes them as Paw Oo Thet's signature style.

  • Paw Oo Thet didn't create these paintings out of pride or personal passion, but rather for commercial purposes. Yet, some have observed that these artworks truly reflect the social life of Myanmar's people.

  • During the 1950s, Myanmar was introduced to impressionist and abstract art, evoking mixed reactions of controversy and admiration due to its complex nature.

Even though trailblazers like Bagyi Aung Soe and Paw Oo Thet faced harsh criticism, with some claiming that their art was not relatable to the general public until the 1980s, today, the artworks of the next generation of contemporary artists proudly carry on the modernist tradition and are showcased with honor in various galleries worldwide.

[Abstract from the book, "Win Pe, Paw Oo Thet, Khin Maung Yin"]