Ko Ko Gyi was born in 1937 Ye U, a small riverfront town just north of Shwebo. World War II occupied much of his childhood, as he received much of his early education inside of bomb shelters. He did not receive a formal art education, but studied the works of great artists like Ba Yin Galay, Ba Thet and Khin Maung Bank. He studied Psychology at Mandalay University under Doctor Sein Tu – a Harvard graduate. In 1965, he went to Hungary for his Ph. D. and spent a few happy years in Budapest between 1965 and 1970. His time in Europe exposed him to a wider scope of art and art movements around the world (Source: Myanmar Contemporary Art 1 by Aung Min and Aung Myint).
He began practicing Abstract Expressionism in 1980. Heavily influenced by artists Bagyi Aung Soe and Khin Maung Yin, he has worked in the form of abstract painting up until today. His colours and heavy brush strokes are also influenced by his studies in psychology, often reflecting the mind and its feelings, emotions and thoughts in the form of shapes.
In a recent article in the Myanmar Times, written by Lae Phyu Pya Moe Myint, Ko Ko Gyi states: ‘Humans are not birds so they can’t fly. They’re also not fishes, so they can’t swim very far in the ocean. But humans can float, in a metaphorical sense. We have amazing minds, so that’s what I try to capture in my paintings – our floating through the cosmos.’