From Isolation to Open-Access: Painting Myanmar in the 21st Century

October 28, 2016

On October 26, 2016, Sorbonne-trained art historian Catherine Raymond explored a fascinating moment in Burmese art history for a diverse audience of faculty and students. As fifty years of heavy-handed censorship and enforced isolation came to a close in 2011, with rescinding the military dictatorship and Myanmar's sudden wide opening to the Internet -- and through it, to the global artistic community -- the malevolence scarring Burmese cultural expression is speedily fading and healing. A new visual vocabulary reflecting the transition between tradition and modernity is emerging: as evidenced by the extraordinary Thukhuma Collection assembled by Professor Ian Holliday, a vice president at Hong Kong University. Painters deeply scarred by long-term repression are trying to find their balance: some still deeply anchored in Burmese Buddhist culture within an idealized landscape; while others in growing numbers propose seemingly radical new approaches to style and content.

The presentation was based equally on Prof. Raymond's extensive personal experience in Myanmar and on her recent provocative interviews with thirty contemporary artists in Yangon and Mandalay. This event was presented by the John Hope Franklin Center as part of its Wednesdays at the Center (W@TC) series, and the Asian/Pacific Studies Institute.