Hubert Burda Media

Paintings, not Politics

An art exhibition in Singapore this weekend is set to tell us about life in Myanmar

Bold brushstrokes illustrate a petite lady dressed in sweet pastels with a matching pink umbrella, surrounded by vibrantly coloured flowers. A calm river gleams with the delightfully intense colours of Nature as two sampans glide across its surface, set against a backdrop of darkly lined trees. Vivid outlines of three young boys running on a beach, bathed in the golden glow of the sun, evoke warmth and kinship.

These are the landscapes on a set of paintings, each done by a different Burmese artist – Hlaing Bwa, Maung Win Cho and Myoe Win Aung respectively. Their serene depictions belie the fact that their composers have actually been living under a repressive military regime. But unlike the traditional Buddhist-themed artwork of the older generation, or the anti-establishment, provocative pieces by the burgeoning group of contemporary political artists in Myanmar, they have chosen to tell stories of everyday life through images of simple beauty.

This month, Singapore will witness these stories in a three-day exhibition A Tale of Three Artists: A Myanmar Narrative, staged by local-based art curator Asian Palette, featuring the trio.

The showcase is part of the Asian Palette Introduces series, aimed at providing “a platform to support this new era of artistic expression and share the culture of this fascinating country through its art and artists”, according to Fiona Rankine, the owner of Asian Palette.

While the technical styles of the three gentlemen may have distinct differences – Hlaing Bwa is an impressionist, Maung Win Cho favours exploring contemporary styles and Myoe Win Aung is a watercolourist – the themes are often similar.

Depicting scenes of idyllic everyday life in Myanmar, the artists reveal the stories that we hardly see, amid regular reports on the nation’s political strife. These are stories of the everyday man on the street, told by ordinary people with the extraordinary ability to recognise and create beauty.

“Stories are an important aspect of culture and identity and many works of art tell great stories. As Myanmar opens up after over half a century of isolation, there are as many stories to be told as there are eager listeners,” she says.

While Myanmar has been a closed country for the past half a century, it is slowly but surely beginning to open up, allowing the outside world glimpses of life within it – and it certainly is not all about the politically oppressed and the freedom fighters, as we see through the works of these artists.

Indeed, this exhibition hopes to achieve another purpose – the promotion of tourism with the gradual easing of national restrictions. “With global interest and change in the air, Myanmar stories of the past, present and future are taking on a fresh perspective,” elaborates Rankine. “We hope to raise interest in the destination and its people.”

Fittingly, this initiative is backed by players in the tourism industry – Traders Hotel Yangon and online travel news brand Web in Travel. Philip Couvaras, general manager of Traders Hotel Yangon, explains: “Myanmar artists are very talented and deserve international recognition. Traders Yangon is home to many original artworks by talented local artists and happy to be part of this initiative.”

A Tale of Three Artists: A Myanmar Narrative will open to the public from 11am to 9pm on June 20, 2013 and from 10am to 9pm on June 21-22 at Tanglin Mall. A preview for invited guests will take place from 9am to 11am on June 20.