Artist finds beauty in the bare
NUDITY, even in the arts, is a still a taboo subject in Myanmar where dress is fairly conservative and the slightest hinting at sexuality in film is cut from the reel.
Today, however, seven contemporary artists are exploring the nude body and more in both realist and abstract acrylic paintings in the Planet of Color exhibition, currently on view at Lokanat Gallery from November 9 to 13.
The exhibition organiser, Chan Nyein Kyaw, who goes affectionately by CNK, wanted to give Myanmar artists a platform for expression through vibrant, loud colour play.
“The essence of the paintings here is colour – not just the primary ones, red, green, blue, but also black and white,” said Chan Nyein Kyaw, who held his first group show in 1996. “I planned to do this as a solo show a year ago but I don’t have enough painting on my own so I invited friends.”
However, Planet of Color works to delve far beyond interesting combinations of color; in fact, it verges on social commentary about representations of women in the arts.
Three artists – Min Zay Yar Oo, Yan Naing Tun, and Zaw Min Thein – challenge artistic conventions and portray the nude body through street photography and modelled figure drawings of women.
“This is my first time drawing nudes,” said Zaw Min Thein, who learned to draw in 1996 but became a professional artist only in 2011. “I’ve always liked to draw nudes but it is difficult to find models, especially here.”
Thirty-year-old artist Min Zay Yar Oo told The Myanmar Times that he spends his days outdoors drawing inspiration from the people who populate his neighborhood in Dagon Seikkan township.
“I became friends with the children who are playing in street. They take baths completely naked in the drain. Seeing them, I had the idea to draw natural and innocent forms like them,” he said.
In his photographs, the children appear with their arms outstretched on the shoulders of another, showing for Min Zay Yar Oo the unity and peacefulness of the uncorrupted child mind.
This photo set later inspired a painting entitled “Peace to The New World 2,” which was awarded best painting of 2016 in the Tun Foundation’s painting competition.
Yan Naing Tun, who has been painting for 15 years also explored nudity in his ongoing series depicting female nudes. He said, “I would like to show the textures and feelings as they [the women] control their shyness and fear of other women in my simple paintings. I used a gold colour for skin to show their value.”
Though artists are diving into somewhat uncharted space, audiences are still surprised to see nudes on display in the country’s culture capital.
Ma Ni Ni, a reporter from New Watch, recounted having a physical reaction to the exhibit, her hands becoming cold and shaky as she looked on at the paintings.
“How can I take a news photograph of the exhibit?” she asked.
Planet of Color will be on view at Lokanat Gallery from November 9-13.
Yan Naing Tun stands before two of his nude paintings.