From Myanmar With Love is an intriguing glimpse of life set in an isolated land

From Myanmar With Love, the exhibition currently on display at Vinnyasa Premier Art Galery, brings a slice of Burmese life to Chennai. Featuring the works of five contemporary artists from the region, the collection provides an intriguing glimpse of an ancient culture, and a sometimes difficult life set in an isolated land.

The most arresting works would have to be those of Zaw Win Pe. His abstract landscapes of the North Eastern Shan State in Burma are an evocative blaze of colour. The use of almost-neon tones gives the works a strikingly surreal feel, with jagged grey mountains outlined in bright pink, roads and forests in psychedelic orange, and fields bathed brilliant shades of aquamarine.

In bright hues

The bold use of colour is one of the hallmarks of the exhibition. Than Kyaw Htay’s large, spare canvases of rural Burma might touch upon issues of displacement and isolation, but here too the hues are bright, the vast, open farmlands painted in vivid, textured strokes of red, yellow, and green. The workers stand alone, their backs to you, staring out at the distance and into their future, troubled but hopeful.

Maung Aw uses similarly vibrant blocks of colour to depict the ‘Private Moments’ in the lives of Burmese women. In this charming series, the artist captures women in the private act of tying the ‘longyi’, the traditional sarong-like garment, their heads bent and arms stretched outward as they focus on getting it just right. The result is a set of dancer-like images that are graceful and introspective at once. The ‘Turban Kids’ series is equally appealing, featuring portraits of children from the Shan State wearing the traditional turban.

In contrast, K. Kyaw’s busy, chaotic canvases capture the hubbub of the crowded marketplace, its sellers and their wares, buyers and passersby. The attention to detail and use of light and shade give these works a wonderful ‘photo real’ quality. Even more powerful is his ‘Unfolding News’ series, juxtaposing lifelike images of Buddhist monks against the backdrop of the printed word, a metaphor, perhaps, for the contrasts between the country’s cultural past and present.

Also part of the exhibition (though not on display at present) are two pieces by Aung Myint, the senior-most artist in the collection. The works are a departure from the others, featuring minimalist, curving line drawings that depict the bond between mother and child.

From Myanmar With Love is a travelling exhibition put together by the Calcutta Art Club. The first exhibition of its kind in the country, the show has already been to New Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai, and will be heading to Bangalore next. It is on in the city until September 28.