Filed under: exhibit | Tags: A Flower Wants Just to Bloom, Art, စန်းဇော်ထွေး, burma, burmese, collage, myanmar, pansodan gallery, prison, prison art, recycled, recycled art, San Zaw Htway, San Zaw Htwe
On 13 January 2012, when a major amnesty was announced, San Zaw Htway was in prison near Taunggyi, working on a portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi executed in the crimped edges of Coffeemix packets on a black plastic bag. He did not know whether he would be included in the amnesty or not, so kept working on the picture late into the night. The next day he was freed.
Among the things he left behind was a large picture of tulips, hung in the prison library. It is one of many pictures he made out of scraps of card, bags, and plastic scavenged from family parcels. He took boxes which had come into the prison full of treats brought by families of prisoners, smoothed them out, covered them in cut-up bags, and then snipped sweet wrappers, powdered-drink packets, labels of every kind. San Zaw Htway had started making these pictures in 2006, when such work was sometimes tolerated, but not officially allowed. Some early ones were lost, but he comforted himself with the knowledge that he had to skill in his mind and hands to make more.
San Zaw Htway had been a cloth merchant before his arrest at the age of 24. Years later, in 2006, he heard about an artist, Htein Lin, who had exhibited paintings made from recycled materials when he was released from prison. At that time, in San Zaw Htway’s prison, they could not get brushes, paints, canvas, or even paper. But the word ‘recycle’ stuck in his mind. Then he noticed the colourful plastics which sometimes blew about the prison grounds, and began to collect them.
The first picture he made was a replica of a well-known photograph of Bogyoke Aung San. San Zaw Htway felt strengthened by the presence of the leader’s gaze in his cell. As he composed the pictures in his mind, and worked on collecting and arranging the materials, the annoyances and sadnesses of prison life receded.
He cleverly used the materials at hand. Translucent white pagodas glimmer in the moonlight on the night of a black plastic bag. Trunks of palms are given texture from the portions of coffeemix bags which feature coffee beans. Little tulips are cut from the crinkly heat seals and scalloped edges of wrappers. In his pictures of flowers, each blossom has many different colours.
‘Flowers want just to bloom; they don’t expect anything more from it’, he says. ‘And no flower fails to bloom just because it is afraid to fade and fall.’
By the time San Zaw Htway was released, his pictures were known and appreciated in the prison. He was allowed to take out his remaining work upon his release. When he arrived home, he continued to make pictures from cuttings, but he was no longer retricted to the scale of flattened cake boxes. He has made large pictures of peacocks using the same techniques, which will be for sale at Pansodan Art Gallery in October, as well as works on canvas. The pictures he made in prison are not for sale; he plans to take them on tour as part of a larger project. “I could never recapture the mood that is in those pictures,” he said. “Not even if I went back to prison. The prisons now are not the same as then.”
23 – 27 October 2012
286 Pansodan, first floor (upper block)
Kyauktada, Yangon. Mobile: 0951 30846
Open daily 10 – 6.
 In this country where some of the best tea in the world is produced, most people do not care much about the quality of coffee, and favour packets of pre-mixed instant coffee, sugar, and coffee whitener.
Filed under: exhibit | Tags: architecture, buildings, burma, cambodia, david richards, heritage, pansodan gallery, Yangon
David Richards started this project painting archtectural heritage in South-east Asia several years ago in Cambodia for an exhibition which celebrated the architectural heritage of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The success of that show gave him the interest in continuing in other countries. Although the buildings of the colonial period are fast being pulled down in Yangon, there is at least some effort to save it, where in the other countries there is little interest in the well-designed, lovely, and practical old buildings. While it is not at all sure that the atmosphere of the neighbourhoods where they remain will be rescued, at least there is some hope and interest. The architecture is an integral part of the urban landscape, and it is important to save it from destruction.
“Usually it is a building’s look of having been around for a long time that attracts me at first. I hope to raise the awareness of the value of these buildings, so it will spread through the society, and help preserve them. I focus on the buildings that look like they are being neglected.” The first one that he was attracted to in April was the Secretariat, which had broken windows, loose roofing, and so many different aspects from different angles. He sought out a photograph of the building before the earthquake of 1931, and painted it with the dome and spires that had been removed because of quake damage.
Richards appreciates buildings with human touch. “Modern buildings are all sharp and angular and box-like. The old ones are more like curved shapes you find in nature.” One aspect of Yangon he particularly appreciates is the varied backgrounds of the buildings. Along with buildings designed by Burmans and British, which you would expect to find, there is Islamic architecture, Indian-style design, Chinese buildings.
I am hoping that when people look at these paintings, I think they will first notice the beauty of it. But I hope it will inspire them to get involved in keeping these buildings in use. Maybe others will be inspired to do entirely different projects, depending on what their interest is, but I hope it will lead to good results in any field.
Read more about him here.
The exhibition runs from 16-20 October, at Pansodan Gallery, open from 10-6 daily.
286 Pansodan, first floor (upper block)
Mobile: 0951 30846
Filed under: art and ideas | Tags: Amir Muhammad, documentarian, filmmaker, Institute of Alternative Histories and Popular Culture, Malaysia, pansodan gallery, Rangoon, Yangon
Pansodan Gallery is pleased to host Amir Muhammad for an afternoon of conversation, thanks to the Institute of Alternative Histories and Popular Culture. Amir Muhammad is a clever writer and witty independent filmmaker based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He has had a had an extraordinary career, which he will discuss on Sunday afternoon. Two of his films, Apa Khabar Orang Kampung (Village People’s Radio Show) and The Last Communist have been banned in Malaysia; others were never submitted to censorship, and so have never been released publicly. They have titles like The Year of Living Vicariously and The Big Durian.
His works have featured in international film festivals including the Sundance Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival, and a full retrospective of his work was screened at the 2008 Pesaro Film Festival, Italy. He is a partner at Da Huang Pictures.
He was born in Kuala Lumpur and was educated in law at the University of East Anglia. He has been writing for Malaysian print media since the age of 14, notably the New Straits Times. He notes that this says more about the standard of journalism in Malaysia than about his writing skills.
He has been taking a break from filmmaking for the past five years, and started publishing non-fiction books in under his company Matahari Books. He has written several books, including Yasmin Ahmad‘s Films (2009), Rojak (ZI Publications, 2010), 120 Malay Movies (2010), Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things series (Matahari Books).
The talk will take place in the extension space, at 4 o’clock.
270 Pansodan, third floor (upper block)
Kyauktada, Yangon. Mobile: 0951 30846
Contacts: Phyo Win Latt 095172795, Aung Soe Min 095130846
Filed under: info | Tags: art scene, Aung Soe Min, ကိုချို, ဧကဇာချို, burma, economy, Eikaza Cho, Esmer Golluoglu, Guardian, IMAA, Independent Myanmar Artist Association, Independent Myanmar Artists Alliance, lawkanat, lokanat, Pansodan Art Gallery, pansodan gallery, Rangoon, Richard Texier, Yangon
A recent article in The Guardian included Pansodan co-owner Aung Soe Min’s comments. He is in there as one of the ‘winners’ in the changing business environment.
Here’s to hopes that almost all the winners are Burmese, or at least that benefits are fairly divided among those who sincerely work hard for the success of an enterprise — and not ‘fairly’ in the sense of ‘they are poor so they get only a poor share and should be glad of it; we are rich so we are the ones who get the money’.
There has been plenty of research on quality of life that shows that it depends on the perception of having a meaning or purpose to one’s life, and a warm social life with friends and family. Yet, when it comes to development, it is all about money. There is even a new trend to look at migration as something entirely positive as a development process — people migrate to Dubai or Australia or wherever, earn vastly more (i.e., are vastly more productive in economics terms), send remittances home, and thus are creators of development. True enough in pure economics terms, but this ignores the sacrifices that the migrants are making in non-economic factors, and the loss of social capital in their home community. (I am a migrant myself, so obviously not against migration, but I do not like to see it portrayed in black-and-white terms.) We know migrants who are important artists in various fields in Burma, but as migrants work in factories or do other work entirely unrelated to their talents. Those of us remaining behind, who appreciated their art regret this change in the meaning of their lives.
Pansodan’s contribution to improve the life or artists in their own country is the Independent Myanmar Artist Alliance, mentioned in the Guardian article. It was the idea of Aung Soe Min, and is hosted by Pansodan Gallery. It is a new model of professional association — somewhat like a union, but without most of the bureaucracy and positions that, no matter how noble the initial ideas, later tend to be used for obstruction and gain, or simply to lose their dynamism.
Filed under: art conversation, exhibit | Tags: သိန်းသိန်း, pansodan, pansodan gallery, thein thein, zach hyman
Sundays at Pansodan we fire up the espresso machine and make coffee from beans grown in Shan State. We just started, but it seems like a good idea, so let’s try it again. This time, we have a Sunday-only exhibit of works by Thein Thein.
Thein Thein paints a kaleidoscopic window into small town life, infusing mundane rural landscapes with prismatic treetops and dazzling skies. Treetops tower over quilt-like hodge-podges of homes, cut through with bustling roads and rivers. Soft pinks, purples, and oranges, bright greens and yellows inject the tranquil scenes of day-to-day life with a buzzing vitality.
Indeed, these roads and rivers are veins – a glimpse into rural Myanmar in motion. Man-made and natural twine; these time-worn paths deftly tie together the artist’s collage of both the visible world of umbrellas, pagodas, and power lines as well as the intangible world of commerce, piety, and dreams.
Known for his watercolors and illustrations, Thein Thein draws inspiration in his birthplace of Pyay, where he makes his life as an artist. He deftly blends reality and fantasy into the colour-soaked canvas iterations of his hometown, effortlessly inhabiting the space between traditional village landscapes and modern abstraction.
By Zach Hyman