MADISON KOCHENDERFER WRITES — With censorship so prominent in Myanmar, it is vital that artists from this country are especially applauded for their works and the challenges they faced to simply offer their perspectives. Below are a few spotlight artists that went beyond censorship limitations to share their work with the world.
At 72 years old, this Burmese artist has had five solo exhibitions showcasing his modern twists on classical Burmese art. Even though Khaing studied chemistry in university, he ironically spent much of his time in the library reading about art. Through his friendships with modern artists, he was exposed to and subsequently fell in love with Modernism. “I only want to draw puppet dancers, people’s faces, and nudes.”
His journey as an artist, like many Burmese professionals, has been subjected to much controversy and censorship by the government. His works are often referred to as “unfit for public display” and it wasn’t until 2013 that Khaing had his first solo exhibition. Rather than give into censorship regulations, it was worthwhile for Khaing to wait longer in order to showcase his genuine pieces that expressed his raw opinions and feelings. “I just want to create the way I feel,” Khaing explained, in response to being questioned about his unwillingness to give into the government’s demands to curb his expressionism.
Aung Aung Taik
A man of all trades at 69 years old, Aung Aung Taik is an accomplished author, photographer, painter, sculptor and poet— a pioneer of modern art for Burma. He is well known for his philosophical approach to art, many of his pieces exploring life, death and impermanence. Taik is one of of the first Burmese artists of his time to take such an approach, which many consider dark and grim.
Due to government attempts at censoring his art, it was not until 2001 that his first solo exhibition premiered in the country. Taik creates unique pieces of art such as his sculpture entitled “Sitting Buddha,” constructed from various materials such as wires and lights. Taik prides himself in his unusual visions of art, stating, “each constituent piece is unique in form and intent unlike what I see in the outside world.
A political prisoner for three years, Aye Ko uses art as a platform to express freedom and democracy in his native Myanmar. This 54 year-old impressionist focuses largely on using performance art to showcase his skills, believing that it is the most effective and powerful method of aristic expression.
In 2008, Ko founded the New Zero Art Space, an organization for modern artists that provides opportunities for collaboration between Burmese artists and the rest of the world. The Space has been pivotal in educating younger generations and offering workshops for all individuals interested in pursuing art. Nevertheless, censorship continues to be a problem for artists and organizations such as New Zero. While social media platforms such as Facebook continue to offer alternative means of communication and spreading censored art, freedom of expression is still an ongoing battle in countries such as Myanmar with overly restrictive central government.