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Friday, March 22, 2019

Myanmar needs more art researchers and wider breadth of knowledge

MYANMARTIMES
LAE PHYU PYA MYO MYINT | 22 MAR 2019

The wealth of Myanmar artistic legacy. Shin Moe Myint/The Myanmar Times

Art is never finished, only abandoned” said famous artist Leonardo Da Vinci. And so, the study and refining of the visual arts is an endless challenge. Most other countries have found it prudent to preserve valuable art so they may make art research and publish many art history books. All of that cultural information can then be printed and uploaded onto the internet and shared with the world. Alas, Myanmar misses that vital component and remains a mystery to many, even Myanmar people themselves.

Traditional Myanmar artists created mural paintings, parabaik paintings (painting table made of paper in the form of accordion folds), gouache paintings (gouache paint applied to a linen cloth), realistic paintings, modern, contemporary, installation, performance and animation arts. While there is a lot going on, very few of it is in print or organised and searchable in any meaningfully organised way. 

Myanmar does have a few art books for study. Dr. Than Tun translated “Victoria and Albert Museum, Burmese (Myanmar) Art” by John Lowry, Christophe Munier and Myint Aungs. There are also (mostly historical) recordings of the ancient and traditional arts of Myanmar as well as commentary on current movements and about the galleries showing these pieces, however many are self published or only available in limited numbers, and not always with great visual quality. 

“Research based on art or art based on research is really rare in our country. Local people’s visual art research is rare especially” said performance artist and art researcher Zoncy, a famous local artist in her own right. 

The National University of Arts and Cultures has university students’ visual art treatise in University Library which can be referenced by young art lovers, but these treatises are for university students only. Other than that, young aspiring artists will either need art magazines or books, or to know a knowledgeable working artist.

“Research is very important for business, politics and art. Art researchers are few in the Myanmar field because our country’s education system is not good,” said worldwide artist and New Zero Village Art School founder Aye Ko.



Shin Moe Myint/The Myanmar Times


He added that the university should publish its archives to do with the arts, including student’s work currently only available to other students. For non art students, the lack of any modernised education in critical thinking and analysis makes art a difficult subject to make flourish. It stands to reason that some level of freedom and personal expression needs to be encouraged to generate an artistic culture not based on repetitive traditions. The funding and promoting of museums and expertise might also encourage artistry. 

Head of Arts and Partnership, British Council, Nwet Kay Khaing, said “Visual art researchers are very rare. We should say thank you to authors because they have written many records on art from many different eras. We have only these records to support our approach to art”. 

She added “Our country has more researches opportunities after 2012. More technical support or funding support for research. But a strong cultural sector needs many researchers”. 

The British Council supports the National Museum’s art conservation education in Myanmar. The council has helped create many “Creative Hub” research projects in other South East Asian countries. In August, 2019, they will launch the ‘Art for Change’ forum in Myanmar. Many foreign artists will be invited to partake.

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