Inspiration flows in Myanmar
Eight Chinese painters on art and culture exchange program use their talent, techniques to enrich creativeties. Wang Yuke and Yang Han in Yangon, Myanmar.
As a 10-day art and culture exchange visit to Myanmar drew to a close, participating artists presented brilliant watercolor works inspired by the Buddhist country.
Myanmar: Through the Dragon’s Brush, an art and culture exchange program organized by China Daily and the Chinese Culture and Art Association, brought the work of nine Chinese artists to four major cities in Myanmar — Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Inle Lake — where they told tales of the country with brushes and canvas.
The 32 finished works exhibited on the trip’s last two days were well received in Yangon, managing to capture the multilayered characteristics of the country — sacred and traditional, also humble yet modern.
Upon arrival in Yangon on Nov 14, the group was warmly welcomed by Argus Ang, chief executive of RVi Group, a main supporting organization for the exchange program.
Over the next two days (Nov 15-16) in Yangon, the artists visited the landmark Shwedagon Pagoda and held a sketch session at Kandawgyi Lake, which offered a distant and panoramic view of the pagoda. They also visited U Lun Gywe Art Gallery, for a glimpse into the local art forms, styles and genres.
The glittering gilded stupa, being renovated manually, stopped the artists in their tracks. They also marveled at the Myanmar people’s faith in their religion.
A highlight during the stay in Yangon was a meeting with Hong Liang, the Chinese ambassador to Myanmar. Acknowledging that the China-Myanmar art exchange trip helped artists from both sides to find common ground creatively, Hong shared with the artists what the embassy has been doing to bolster cultural ties between Myanmar and China.
Apart from the opening in July of the China Cultural Center in Yangon, the embassy has held concerts, grand shows and exhibitions in collaboration with national and provincial art institutions from China.
The embassy envisions launching another art center in the near future — in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw. It is projected to be 15,000 square meters, much larger than the current center in Yangon. “We hope the art centers in Myanmar will serve Chinese artists as ‘free galleries’ that they can make full use of to exhibit their great works of art,” said Hong.
Pleased to see that regular art performances and exhibitions have attracted curious locals, Tian Shanting, cultural counselor at the embassy, declared that the newly opened art center will “open to the public every day, with cultural activities available every week and highlight programs every month”.
Although art is emphasized in Myanmar, the country’s art has remained obscure on the world scene. Hong put this down to the country’s instability, which had subdued the people’s creativity. He hoped the two-way communica- tion on art between China and Myanmar could “help fuel the dynamic of creating art and prompt local artists to unleash their potential”.
Hong also noted that promoting art exchanges between the two countries against the backdrop of the Belt and Road Initiative has profound implications. Since Myanmar
is a key direct access point to the Indian Ocean for China, the impact of the China-Myanmar art and cultural exchange will extend further to the regions along the Indian Ocean, generating further economic benefits.
Zhou Yanzhao, chairman of the Chinese Culture and Art Federation and an international art critic, who accompanied the tour, said art acts as an effective medium of communication in the Belt and Road Initiative. “Art helps to channel one culture into the other and establishes mutual recognition with other cultures. The mutual understanding is built through connectivity, which is an unconscious and a gradual process,” he said.
Zhou added that collaborative painting, an important part of the Myanmar art trip, is a good example of how artists can bond and attain harmony through cooperation.
The artists spent an afternoon in Mandalay visiting the Kuthodaw Pagoda, which is renowned for containing the world’s largest book — a giant stone tablet at the foot of Mandalay Hill inscribed with text from the Buddhist Tripitaka. The shimmering gold-plated stupa, ubiquitous domed white shrines, delicate mural paintings and a relatively peaceful vibe invoked the artists’ desire to paint on the spot.
Next was a visit to the Myanmar Chinese Chamber of Commerce. U Myint Naing, the chamber’s executive vice-chairman, has paid much attention to art education in Myanmar.
Art education providers are in short supply in the country and awareness is low, he said. He has approached well-established art schools and troupes in China, hoping to co-launch exchange programs. Under construction is a vocational school with the support of Yunnan University, in Southwest China, where art courses will be available.
The artists were split into two groups, arriving in either Bagan or Inle Lake on Nov 18. Bagan is known for its proliferation of Buddhist temples, pagodas and stupas, and the breathtaking views at sunset. Each group of artists was impressed — either by the grandeur of Bagan’s pagodas, or Inle’s serene lake lined with stilt houses — and their inspiration overflowed.
Collaborative painting sessions were held during the trip. Two completed large-size group paintings were exhibited together with 30 individual works on Nov 21 and 22 at Junction City in Yangon.
The opening ceremony of the exhibition was followed by a panel discussion: famous artists from China and Myanmar shared their thoughts on the value of culture and art exchanges.
Among the guests was U Alistair Ang Eng Chong, general manager of RVi Institute, part of the RVi Group.
U Aik Htun, chairman of Shwe Taung Group, a leading corporation in Myanmar and a cosponsor of the art tour, said: “The art exchange program will help bring Myanmar’s art and folk culture to the inter-national community. It will prove important in boosting Myanmar’s economy.”
Shwe Taung Group has partnered with corporations from 12 countries to improve the infrastructure in Myanmar, ranging from express highways and railways to bridges and hydroelectric power. “But we can’t neglect the power of art,” said U Aik Htun. “Only by improving the art intelligence in the country could people shape a forward-looking mindset.”
The eight Chinese artists visit Myanmar’s landmark stupa Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, which later became a source of inspiration for their art creation.
Some artists found the serene Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay a soughtafter place for sketching. (From left) Cai Zhixin, Chai Bukuk, Chen Hang.
Visitors enjoy paintings by Chinese artists at the exhibition in Yangon.
Hong Liang (right), Chinese ambassador to Myanmar, leads a group of Chinese artists on a tour of the embassy of China in Yangon.
U Tin Maung Tun (left), speaker of the Yangon Region Parliament, attends the exhibition’s opening ceremony.
Chinese and Myanmar artists collectively complete a painting at the exhibition’s opening ceremony.
Intrigued by the one-leg rowing skill unique to Inle Lake, artists Zhang Yaoming (left) and Yang Xun sketched on the dock in the morning.