Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Artists go wild

RANGOON, 1974. The country just witnessed a general election that resulted in single party rule by the Burmese Socialist Programme Party.

Amid student protests and workers’ strikes, a group of 12 artists banded together in the halls of then-Rangoon University to form what became known as the Wild Eye Exhibition.

Artists including founder Sann Minn created works reacting to their environment and as the political atmosphere around them changed, so did their art.

By 1982, Wild Eye had shifted exclusively to showing modern art; yet in 2007, they changed again to accommodate trends in contemporary art. If anything, Wild Eye has been one of the longest-running painting exhibits in the country, evolving and expanding to reflect the spirit of the times.

Though Wild Eye is not an annual exhibit by any means, popping up every now and then for the past 43 years, the group has managed to put on a total of 15 exhibits.

Now in its 15th edition, Wild Eye is back, featuring a collection of veteran artists alongside emerging ones in the Wild Eye Exhibition at THINK Art Gallery.

From posthumous work by the father of Myanmar modernism, Khin Maung Yin, to veteran painter and performance artist Aung Myint, the exhibit is testament to the changing times.

In total, the exhibit displays the works of over 30 different artists including performance artist and painter Htein Lin and abstract expressionist Win Pe, all of whom respond to contemporary issues in their work.

Founder and painter Sann Min notes how much the country changed politically and artistically since Wild Eye’s beginning.

“We started Wild Eye in 1974 as part of our student life at the university in Late Khone Hall,” he said. “We are always flowing in art and changing. In this exhibition we tried to show many contemporary works.”

Sann Min’s own paintings on social justice and technology feature in the show.

While Sann Min has spearheaded the last 10 Wild Eye exhibits, he told Weekend he will now rely on the next generation to lead the way.

Wild works. Lae Phyu Pya Myo Myint / The Myanmar TimesWild works. Lae Phyu Pya Myo Myint / The Myanmar Times

One such younger generation artist is Soe Hnin Aung who goes under the moniker SNA. The abstract painter created works reflecting different forms of humanity.

“I wanted to show people life as it is – the different kinds of life and love that exist,” he said.

Another painter, Nyo Win Maung showed his series Play Drums, a three panel piece depicting the act of playing a traditional drum kit.

“I created Playing Drums after watching a Myanmar traditional film called Chay Phawa Taw Nu Nu nearly three months ago,” he said. “I’ve been influenced heavily by traditional drum music, songs and the overall aura. When I created these works, I tried to give the audience the experience of listening to these drums.”

Other artists such as Soe Kyaw San took on more challenging issues. His paintings depicted the realities of climate change.

Oliver Ko Lay also used the environment as his muse, but instead of depicting its degradation, he portrayed an ideal image based heavily on his 30 years abroad in temperate California.

The Wild Eye Exhibition will be on view at the THINK Art Gallery at 231 Nawaday Road until May 20.