French novelist Gustave Flaubert once said that anything becomes interesting if you look at it long enough.
That’s the idea behind an exhibition titled The Details opening at the Yangon Gallery on September 16, featuring photorealist and hyperrealist paintings by eight local artists.
The participating artists include Myoe Thant Oung, Aye Nyein Myint, Aung Thiha, Aung Myin Baw, Tin Aung Kyaw, Aung Htoo, Khine Minn Soe and Myo Min Latt.
“All of their art is about ordinary objects and scenery that we see on a daily basis,” curator Lynn Whut Hmone told The Myanmar Times. “But they focus on the details and they show it in a way that we’ve never seen before, which makes us appreciate the little things around us.”
As an example, she cited Aung Htoo, who makes paintings of household objects made of steel.
“Aung Htoo’s paintings are so detailed that you can see the little scratch marks on the steel utensils he paints. You don’t notice them even when you’re eating, but it looks beautiful in the paintings,” she said.
Lynn Whut Hmone made a distinction between photorealism – which simply seeks to re-create an image in the way it would be seen in a photograph – and hyperrealism, in which artists use photorealism as a reference but inject additional emotion into the artwork.
“There is more to hyperrealism. The artist puts more feeling into it and tries to show something beyond just representing the reality,” she said.
One painting in the exhibition that treads the line between these two types of art is Tin Aung Kyaw’s “The Silver Set”, an extremely meticulous painting that took the artist about 200 hours to complete. While the silver objects are rendered in photorealist detail, the semi-abstract background gives the artwork a sombre, almost gothic, feel.
“It took me a while to figure out about the background because I wanted something that wouldn’t disturb the silver set yet was interesting in its own way,” Tin Aung Kyaw said. “I wanted the viewers to feel something when they looked at the painting.”
Artist Aye Nyein Myint also focuses on inanimate objects, and her painting “The Shape” depicts a baroquely complex mushroom half-submerged in a glass of water.
“I decided to paint this because I really like the shape of the mushroom. If you look long enough, it looks like a dancing lady wearing a skirt. But viewers can look at the shape and think of something else,” Aye Nyein Myint said, adding that her paintings are not intended to show how her subjects would look in a photograph.
“I paint objects the way I feel in terms of colour and texture. Some of my paintings are very detailed because I feel like it’s necessary to show that, and sometimes they’re not,” she said.
Myoe Thant Oung, who at 52 is the elder of the exhibition – some of his students are taking part in the show – paints natural scenery with the aim of conveying particular ideas to those who see his artwork.
His contribution to The Details includes a series of paintings titled “Strength of Life”, one of which depicts flowers growing from a dead tree stump, while another shows a small plant sprouting among weathered stones.
“I want to show concepts in my paintings. For example, people would easily cut up a tree and not notice the beauty of nature, but even if you cut up a tree it doesn’t die – it grows again,” Myoe Thant Oung said. “I want to show the strength of nature, and I want people who see this painting to get the feeling of strength and hope for themselves as well.”
Aung Thiha, meanwhile, is showing a series three portrait paintings – of his youngest daughter, his eldest daughter and his wife – titled “Reflection of My Heart”.
Each of these artworks is unusual in its own way: The wife, for example, is shown from behind and drenched with water, while the youngest daughter is seen through a window which is dripping with soapy water, her head cocked and her face bearing an ambiguous, almost sad, expression.
“For the painting of my young daughter, I wanted to show the beautiful reflections on the window and also the texture and transparency of the soapy water,” Aung Thiha said. “For her face, this is what my daughter looks like when one of her parents is away. Even when her mother goes to the market, she will be waiting for her, like she is longing for someone or missing someone. I tried to capture that expression.”
Curator Lynn Whut Hmone said she hoped visitors to the exhibition would enjoy the chance to see photorealist and hyperrealist paintings, which are not as common in Myanmar as more traditional types of realism.
“I want people to look at the art and see the details of the things around them, and learn to notice and appreciate them more,” she said.
“All these things around us have their own beauty, textures and colours. Even when looking at a simple white teacup, we don’t notice that there are so many colours reflected there. Artists can see this clearly and show it in their work.”
The Details is showing from August 16 to 20 at the Yangon Gallery, located in People’s Park near the Planetarium Museum off Ahlone Road. The gallery is open daily from 10am to 6pm.