Artist examines the cycle of life
IT is our first experience as a newborn, being swaddled. It is the mark of death, covering the face of the recently departed. Our lives are encompassed by white cloth.
Short or long, the span of our lives, and all the colours they contain, stretches out between those two starched squares.
Artist Phyoe Kyi’s solo exhibition The White Cloth, held from September 17 to October 1 at Myanm/Art in downtown Yangon, examines this phenomenon.
He presents five kinds of installations: foursentence poems; fabrics folded, coiled and rolled; deconstruction of language in mixed media; videos; and pop art creations featuring him and his mother.
“A man is standing on the water. That man standing on the water is me. A fish is standing on the water. A fish is hiding in the air.” The sentences are printed on white cloths hung around the entrance of the show.
“In the first sentence, I describe a man standing on the water. Then I describe more specifically that man is me, the artist. Then I change me to a fish. But there is no fish standing on the water. The last sentence means that that fish will die,” said the artist.
Phyoe Kyi, 39, transformed the Bagan period poem “mya kan” using only Myanmar vowels, with each vowel recorded and played.
“I would like to summon up the 12 vowels of the Myanmar language. First I chose to use the child’s mnemonic ma ma wa wa hta hta ka. However, then I chose “mya kan”, one of the first poems we studied in school,” he said.
Gallery founder Nathalie Johnston said, “All the artworks of Phyoe Kyi are simple in lines and installation, though they have very complex meanings. White cloth represents birth and death. It is the cycle of life. Then he expands the concept to reflect the absence of colours, how it relates to his memory. That’s kind of confusing and really interesting.”
One of his artworks in the exhibition, named “The Route”, concerns his mother and his portraits, plus a creation resembling pop art on Shan paper.
“Silk screen on Shan home-made paper is his method for portraying his relationship with mother. He was born in Taunggyi, Shan State, and has lived alone with her for the past 30 years,” said Johnston.
“This is the first exhibition using Myanmarlanguage text here at Myanm/Art. The artist plays with language. It’s almost like you need to be able to speak and read Myanmar to understand. All these poems are vowels, not consonants or full words. I think it’s an insider’s way of looking at art. For example: Myanmar art for Myanmar people,” she added.
Visitor Ei Phyu Shane said, “A white cloth is nothing special. It could suggest a girl sewing a shirt. But viewed through the eyes of an artist, a mere cloth can stimulate our feelings.”
Phyoe Kyi has contributed to 20 exhibitions, including in Thailand, Germany, Japan and Bangladesh, as well as in Myanmar.
Myanm/Art Gallery is open every day except Monday from 11am to 7pm. The gallery is at 98 Bogalay Zay Street, Botahtaung township, Yangon.
Recordings of Myanmar vowels play.
Visitors at Myanm/Art Gallery.
Phyoe Kyi has contributed to exhibitions around the world.
Phyoe Kyi stands in front of his work.
One of Phyoe Kyi’s installations.