Watercolors Bring Clarity to Myanmar’s Everyday Struggles

Watercolors Bring Clarity to Burma’s Everyday Struggles

Watercolor painting

Watercolor paintings on display this week at Lokanat Gallery in Rangoon. (Sai Zaw / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — Rising above the hustle and bustle of the city center, the watercolor art exhibition “To the Sea” is tucked away peacefully on the upper level of one of downtown Rangoon’s many surviving colonial-era buildings.

Organized by Hla Htun Aung, a watercolor artist who is one of the Burmese representatives at Global Network of Watercolor Painters’ Association, the show is the sixth annual watercolor painting exhibition to showcase the works of Burmese artists.

“There has been a decrease in the number of watercolor artists in Burma. In large part, this is because watercolor drawings not only are hard to maintain, but also do not sell well in the market,” said Hla Htun Aung, a watercolor artist for more than 30 years.

“We’ve organized this exhibition to showcase the beauty of watercolors,” he added.

The exhibition—which opened on Monday—features the work of 13 artists, with styles ranging from realism to cubism.

The paintings, by artists struggling to reestablish the importance of their specialization, show ordinary people in their own everyday struggles: a woman going out very early in the morning to sell breakfast snacks; a trishaw driver waiting for a passenger in heavy rain.

The nature of the medium is, however, contradictory to these subjects, who are lost in their everyday lives. “Water has a clear nature. It clears your mind and soul. That’s why watercolor artists like water,” said Hla Htun Aung.

The artist went on to explain that the show’s name, “To the Sea,” relates to the fact that all waterways end up in the ocean—just as, he believes, all watercolor artists, with their different styles, have a common endpoint.

So what is the destination, the “sea” that the artists of this watercolor exhibition come to?

It is left for the viewer to decide. Perhaps attempting to see the muddled reality with a clear mind will help.

“To the Sea” is at the Lokanat Gallery of Art on Pansodan Street from Aug. 11-16 (9am to 5pm every day).


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