Lady Artists at Lokanat

Charcoal nudes –  beautiful, voluptuous, stalwart nudes hanging in none other than Lokanat Gallery, Yangon’s oldest gallery run by a collective of senior artists. The space itself has given in to many an experimental exhibition, project, opening, or performance piece and this show is no different. Finally freed by the conservatism of censorship, Lokanat can hang nudes on their walls for the first time in decades.

They are drawn in charcoal, with a heavy hand, accenting the curves of the body, exaggerating thighs, buttocks, and feet. About 50 drawings hang framed in the gallery. The woman is drawn from all angles and positions, inviting the viewer in and around her shapely figure. The best part about them is that the nude is not simply a posing NUDE, she is busy with her camera. While you look at her, she’s either looking at herself through her camera lens, or something you can only imagine.

The mystery of it all evidently comes from years of censored exhibits where her nudes were hidden, or perhaps her disapproving parents. Chu Chu Yuan, curator of the exhibit, mentions in her curatorial essay:

“These [works] are seldom shown inside Myanmar as the subject is not acceptable for public viewing. They have been shown mostly in Thailand and Indonesia. Albeit so, she has persistently carried on with this work, in spite of initial objections from her family.”

She has only exhibited in 3 solo shows, including one at Studio Square in Yangon in 2006. Most of the group shows were featuring women only. Chu Chu Yuan’s Lokanat Exhibition, titled “S + Z II” was the second installment of two women artists, Sandar Khine with her beautiful nudes, and Zun Ei Phyu with her paper cutout portraits. Incidentally, each artist’s CV is listed in the catalog. Under Sandar Khine, it tell who she studied under: Artist U Pe Nyunt Way, U Mg Mg Thein (Pathein), and U Win Pe Myint – all men. Under Zun Ei Phyu, one name: Sandar Khine. So a Master artist and her pupil exhibit together, unabashedly drawing on each other as student and teacher, mentor, friend, perhaps inspiration?

Zun Ei Phyu’s cutouts are mostly tri-layered and play with light and shadow, portrait, and illusion. They are not as intricate as San Zaw Htwe’s and it’s uncertain what she is trying to say with them. Is it merely the approach with paper we should appreciate (which we do – haven’t seen too much of that around these parts) or is it the image they capture? The simple cuts tend to elude any questions on meaning and one ends up appreciating the the act of cutting more than anything else.

I’m curious about both women and their intentions, not to mention how they lean on one another for inspiration. But it looks like I’ll have to interview them myself. A CV as a biography for an artist leaves much to be desired…

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