Aritst Tun T Lin takes an unusual approach to painting portraits of his family members: He depicts them with whimsically elongated necks – a metaphor, he says, for living in hopes of a change for the better in Myanmar.
Thirty-three of Tun T Lin’s paintings – long-necked portraits of his father, mother, wife and daughter – are on display at Gallery 65 on Yaw Min Gyi Street in Yangon. The show, titled Reunite from Pole to Pole, runs through July 3.
“It is habitual that people in our country live in hope,” the artist said. “Some hope for a better life, while others hope for freedom and peace. I draw portraits of my close family members with long necks to represent such hopes.”
Tun T Lin, whose real name is Tun Tun Lin, expressed his passion for drawing from the age of four. He gained early inspiration from his father, who draws as a hobby. Born in Bago Region, Tun T Lin moved to Yangon to study at the State School of Fine Arts, graduating in 2001 and initially adopting a realist style in his work.
In 2006 he left for United States to work as a graphic designer, later taking work as a chef in a Japanese restaurant and painting during his off-hours. He held a solo show in New Mexico in 2008.
Along the way, Tun T Lin began experimenting with more unusual images in his artwork.
“I had been painting in a realist style for almost 10 years. I felt quite bored with it, so I started developing a surrealist style that I was satisfied with,” he said.
Although he still lives in the US, two months ago he returned to Yangon to prepare for his solo show at Gallery 65. The paintings combine the artist’s dream-like approach with the anxiety he feels whenever his is separated from his immediate family.
“I have been living away from my parents, wife and daughter. My wife and daughter live in Yangon. Most of the portraits I have drawn are my wife’s portraits. The longer I have been living away from them, the deeper the love I feel for them,” said Tun T Lin. “Hardly a day passes without me missing them or being overwhelmed by thoughts of them.”
One of the portraits depicts Tun T Lin’s wife leaning on his shoulder, but there is a sad expression on both faces, showing that they have been together for a while but the artist must go back to his work again.
“My portraits don’t display likenesses,” he said, “but they reveal the feeling, mood and personality of the subject.”