Artist ex­am­ines the cy­cle of life

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - BY NYO ME ny­ome@mm­

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.

Pho­tos: Nyo Me

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.

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