Filed under: art and ideas, documentary | Tags: 18-12, burma, Clémence Barret, myanmar, Pansodan Scene, shan migrants, video art
Clémence B. T. D. Barret is a wiry, dark-haired French woman with strikingly large eyes and a quiet manner. She came to Pansodan Gallery to talk about art and her art video ‘Pamaa’ in particular. The video will be screened at Pansodan Scene on Friday 23 September 2016
The nine pieces of Pamaa are pieces of a puzzle. Each features a different young Shan migrant in Chiang Mai — some anonymised with a false name or face covered — who tells about what it means to be them there now. The work began three years ago, when she first went to Thailand. ‘The process is very slow. I get to know them first. With one, we had a good understanding in one month, that was the fastest. Some to five months of getting to know each other before I started,’ she explained. ‘I got to know many more who declined to participate. They were not comfortable that the video would be shown in Myanmar someday.’
There are no words. They explain the elements of their life as migrants through body language. ‘The body does not lie. Cannot lie. You can learn much more watching someone’s body than listening to their words,’ she says. The lack of words also reflects the voicelessness of the participants. They are invisible in Thai society, in their lives, as well. Clémence described how she was fascinated by watching how becoming visible through this project — being at screenings, having their pictures in magazines — also affected the participants. ‘It was the first time they had shared their story with a stranger. They had time to sit and reflect. Some of them found it liberating.’
Clémence has chosen the medium of video, in which she developed her skills by making documentaries for years before her feeling that she needed more freedom led her to turn her video to art. She has used it, like any artist, to explore something originating in her own experience: Otherness. Living in India, despite being deeply into the community, she also way always unmistakably the other.
‘I use art as a tool to confront viewers with an issue I find important. A possibility to approach it in a alternate way. When you are a migrant or a refugee you experience otherness…. The anti-refugee and anti-migrant rhetoric is the same all over the world. If I did this work in Europe, it would not be much different. Only the appearance of the people would be different. I hope to open some people. It’s a drop in the ocean — but it is very important for me to do work that is meaningful.’
‘The soundtrack is disturbing, on purpose. Some audience members may react badly to it,’ she warned. ‘I am curious to see what happens on Friday.’
Interview 21 September 2016, with Nance Cunningham.
Pansodan Scene is at the corner of Maha Bandula and Pansodan, 144 Pansodan, on the second floor. Go up the staircase opposite the entrance to the temple. Admission s free, and all are welcome. Screening begins at 19:30, and the director Clémence Barret will be available for questions after the showing.
Filed under: exhibit | Tags: burma, exhibition, myanmar, Pansodan Scene, Rangoon, Rangun, shwe thein, Yangon
Shwe Thein’s solo show at Pansodan Scene is particularly accomplished.
He has never forgotten his Rakhine boats, and other scenes of his home. The Yangon paintings have a creamy touch and careful colours. In this exhibition he has introduced a new series, of Rakhine wrestling, as well.
Open 10–6 every day until 21 February 2014.
Filed under: art conversation, exhibit | Tags: artist, burma, burmese, myanmar, painter, painting, pansodan, Pansodan Art Gallery, thu rein m, thu rein sann, thu rein.ms, Thurein M, Yangon
In this exhibition, Thu Rein is showing off two series of paintings — some are a straightforward and lovely realism, some are a fresh take which gives an impression of cubism while in fact maintaining a realist approach.
The painter Thu Rein (who sometimes signs himself Thu Rein.M, sometimes Thu Rein Sann, sometimes Thu Rein.MS) began a self-portrait, reflected in the mirror-mosaic of a pagoda wall, seven years ago (see image below). It took him many visits to pagodas, looking at mirrored tiles until he was dizzy before he got the colours, images, shapes and impression he was looking for.
This was the beginning of a series of images shown in the fragments silvery tiles which adorn many pagoda walls. In News Hunter (centre painting in this blog’s header) he depicts parts of a face reflected in a pattern of mirrors, with a camera at the centre, half-hidden behind green leaves, and with the gilded embellishments and other elements of a monastery all around and overlapping the hunter.
He travelled around the country, to Magway, Minbu, Pyinmana and many other places, where he painted whatever caught his eye reflected in the mirrored surfaces. In the painting of the brass Buddha image from Pyinmana, little other than the sheen and colour is reflected. In another, titled Two Friends (see image below), hardly any of the faces of the friends shows, subsumed by the reflections of gold, brass, and the colours of their shirts. The Faceless is another of this series, in which a fragmented person with hints of hair and hand is outdone by his surroundings.
The other series is of the twilight over the Bazundaung River, which shapes and divides the eastern side of Yangon. Views of the city from Thaketa and Thingangyun neighbourhoods, or from Bazundaung itself show the rich colours of dusk. He became entranced by the colours of the sunsets, the fiery sky reflected in the water. Many of the paintings are anchored by the Shwe Dagon, which from that side soars above the town. Another is painting in a bit of North Okkalappa, along the same waterway. In this one, the pagoda popularly called ‘Yangon Thabyinnyu’ and the bank of the river with modest huts make the scene look like a little piece of Bagan, but with a hulk of a building on the horizon where the hills might be in the ancient capital.
A few plein air pictures with other themes round out the exhibition which will be showing until 13 March 2013, at Pansodan Art Gallery, from 10-6 (open until late on Tuesday).
Interview with Nance Cunningham in Pansodan Art Gallery, 11 March 2013
Filed under: exhibit | Tags: A Flower Wants Just to Bloom, Art, artraker award, 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: 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.