Aung Myint and Chan Aye
Opening: 5pm-9pm, Monday 24 September 2012
Exhibition continues till 1 October
Open daily 11am-7pm, all days including Sundays
Clark House Colaba
Performance by Amol Patil
5pm to 5.30pm, Monday 24 September 2012 on Wodehouse Road,
opposite Sahakari Bhandar, at Shri Sai Mitra Mandal Ganesh Pandal.
Clark House Colaba
Performance by Aung Myint (1946- ) photographed by artist Thu Rein
Inner Resources | On the streets of Yangon, as one starts to encounter visiting businessmen from a host of countries, one may begin to wonder if Burma/Myanmar will fall victim to the 'Resource Curse', the Paradox of Plenty, as countries far and near garner concessions to exploit Myanmar's vast natural resources. Already we hear stories of visitor's cultural ineptitude, greed, corruption, and their crony capitalism supported by political hierarchies. Through history, the Myanmar have found support in their spiritual and cultural resources, to resist colonial occupation and war. Inner Resources, is a play on these two ideas of inner reserves, of the land, the culture, the body, and the mind. Clark House plans a series of exhibitions, or propositions, about Burma to open over the next six months across Bombay, New York, and Kochi, that began in Yangon on 13 September 2012.
According to Aung Myint, born in 1946 and living in Yangon, the 'Gainsborough and Constable' genre of art describes the picturesque pastoral scenes and realistic renditions of pagodas and wizened old monks in oil, the leftovers of a colonial academic tradition, which continues to be institutionalized, as a hindrance to the popularity of modern art. Across villages in Myanmar there are shrines dedicated to 'Nats' or supernatural beings that protect and grant boons, represented by imagined forms such as the Kinnara, a bird with a human head, or Belus, an ogre, based on a tradition of myths. Their worship predated Buddhism and they are often depicted within the traditional Burmese art forms of sculpture, marionettes, theatre, and mural making. Referring to their existence, Aung Myint, a self-taught artist from Burma, discusses Burmese conceptual art's ancient inheritance, that was disrupted by a brief period of colonialism. Rejecting the Anglo-Western realism taught within art schools Aung Myint, pioneered the Burmese modern movement in the 1960s, beginning with abstract work inspired by the New York School artists Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. The Bagan frescos in the the ancient Burmese capital of Bagan, have a spiritual origin in Buddhism, and share a history in technique with the Burmese script. The script was derived from the Brahmic Grantha script, and was introduced with the spread of Pali, that accompanied Buddhism into Myanmar. Grantha means a 'knot' in sanskrit and the murals of Bagan reflect the use of a similar singular line that stretches and curls to create a visual vocabulary to support the Buddhist narrative.
Modern Art practice was made popular in Myanmar by a Santiniketan-trained artist Bagyi Aung Soe and a graphic artist Ba Yin Galay in the 1950s. Having entered a period of isolation under General Ne Win, government agencies that dealt with culture largely ignored modernist art practices and independent exhibitions in Burma often had to go through rigorous censorship from the Art and Culture Department. Modernist Art Practice was kept alive through collective efforts of artists and the establishment of collective art spaces. In a socialist economy where access to art materials was rare and expensive, the art of performance became popular as medium for socio-political discourse and critique, as it circumvented censorship and left no trace.
Since 1995, with his performance Beginning & End, Aung Myint lent his existing temperament for experimentation to a performance-based practice that gave him the tools to reflect upon and express his criticism of socio-political issues ailing his country. Regarded as the precursor to contemporary art practice in Myanmar, his award-winning series depicting the Mother & Child in a deep black single circular line on handmade bamboo paper, reflects on his inspiration from the visual traditions within Burma as well as the nourishment he derives from the historical and visual context he finds himself situated in as an artist. In 1989, the year after the 8888 uprising, Aung Myint founded the Inya Art Gallery, in a shed outside his home. Here in the 1990s artists such as Htein Lin and others, spent their Sundays borrowing Aung Myint's books on art, in a decade of complete isolation.
Chan Aye is a Burmese artist whose early works were surreal imagined landscapes. Later, he began works that dealt with philosophies to do with Vipassana. Buddhism denies divinity to a creator or a specific God, and advocates the veneration of acts that observe nature, and through meditation alleviate one's life from stress and suffering. In Myanmar, Theravada Buddhism advocates Vipassana or Insight, a technique of meditation and a method of breathing by which one discovers insight into life in order to attain liberation. Thus the conflict often seen in the occident, between religious practice and art, does not hold true in Burma. Chan Aye, a self-taught sculptor working in wood and stone, whose canvasses are often accompanied by corresponding sculptures to which they act as diagrams.
Presently Chan Aye makes initial drafts in the form intricate drawings of plans to execute large scale land art installations, for which he awaits opportunity and funds. His present practice entails elaborate copies on canvas of Western masters that are then pierced with numerous identical holes. These holes represent Sunyata or Zero, the Buddhist concept of voidness, or the void, through which he reflects on the relativity of our existence, or the concept of form and its materiality in art. Chan Aye was born in Mandalay in 1954, where he and his artist wife Phyu Mon spent many years in the company of other artists especially Sitt Nyein Aye who later went into exile to India post the uprising in 1988.
New Zero Art Group, is a collective of 32 artists based in Yangon that runs an art space of the same name. They run a studio and a school with an extensive library and often invite artists, theorists, and curators to give seminars and hold residencies. Founded and funded by an artist Aye Ko, most contemporary art practitioners in Burma are members and often contribute in the form of books, funds or act as mentors to the students. On the 13th of September, Clark House, along with Ko Latt curated Visa Rejects an exhibition at Myanmar Ink Art Gallery of young artists from the New Zero Art Group - Ko Latt, Yadana, Konaung, Nora, Thyitar, Zun Puint Thu Soe Hnin Aung (Sna) and the members of the Clark House-based collective of young artists 'Shunya' (coincidentally also deserving from "sunyata", meaning zero). The exhibition was made in solidarity with their friends Ko Latt and Amol Patil, whose visas to Switzerland and England respectively had been rejected despite being invited on fully paid scholarships. The artists dealt with the idea of the importance and the ability to travel and how to circumvent these barriers, including banking regulations and in the context of Burma -sanctions. From these deliberations the idea of a barter arose - an art exchange of works between the Indian and Burmese artists. Works received by the Shunya Collective from the New Zero Art Group will be on view at Clark House as the show moves from Yangon to Mumbai.
Amol Patil, comes from a family of traditional folk performers. His grandfather Gunaji Patil, was a 'Povada Shahir' or a 'Poet Performer' who travelled across villages in Maharashtra narrating ballads of heroic deeds. Amol's father migrated to Bombay to work at the municipal corporation, but he was also an avant-garde playwright who formed a theatre group scripting absurdist experimental plays describing madness, and discussing the trauma of migration to the city, families torn apart by the jobs the cotton mills of the city offered. Amol was nudged into becoming an artist by his elder brother Jagdish, a civil engineer, who believed art was a path to emancipation. Jagdish, has been fighting an unending lawsuit aimed at ending caste discrimination he and his fellow "Neo-Buddhist" colleagues face at the municipal corporation. Amol Patil was recently invited to perform at the 'World Event Young Artists' Festival in Nottingham, sponsored by the Arts Council England. Despite an entirely funded travel and stay his visa was rejected, as he was seen as a high risk economic migrant who might overstay his visa to seek employment illegally, for he lacked sufficient funds in his bank account. With the help of the organization, and their lawyer, he applied once again, to be rejected a second time. The act of invitation and subsequent rejections, the barrier to travel that he faces, hinders his career, and he believes it is akin to the class barrier his brother faces. He presents a performance as a tribute to the efforts of his brother, presenting his views on visas and travel.
Lokmanya Tilak, an Indian freedom fighter who was incarcerated in Mandalay prison for six years, had revived and translated the festival of Ganesha, including theatre, performance and dance, in order to instill the idea of socio-political discourse amongst the larger populace, and as a way for people to meet and discuss nationalist aspirations with impuntiy. Since then the Ganpathy festival in Bombay has included institutional critique within its scope of objectives. Amol Patil's performance is made possible through the support of Shri Sai Mitra Mandal, Regal Cinema , established in 1984, an organisation of young men living on Wodehouse road who celebrate the festival. They have granted us permission to hold the performance in the space beside their pandal (makeshift temple) on the street.
Acknowledgements: Htein Lin, Sitt Nyein Aye, Aye Ko, Phyu Mon; in memoriam Aloo Colah; Bina Sarkar Ellias, Madhu and Abhay Shah, Chenaram Prajapati.
Text references: 'Summary of Myanmar Modern Art' by Aung Myint and 'The Contemporary Art in Myanmar Beyond the Millenium' by U Thu Kha
Exhibition assistant: Prabhakar Pachpute
Curated by Zasha Colah and Sumesh Sharma
Prabhakar Pachpute's charcoal murals Canary in a Coal Mine continues to be on view.
Mark Coombs installed a line of photographs, created using polaroid video camera stills, using a map of Oxford, through which he tried to locate Clark House while walking there from his house at Colaba causeway, maintaining a strict discipline of not looking backward. This was made to invert the outer boundary of Clark House, which he recognizes as the hidden artist in most exhibitions that take place within it, onto its interior walls.
Clark House Location & Directions
Ground Floor, Clark House
c/o RBT Group, 8 Nathalal Parekh Marg (Old Wodehouse Road)
opposite Sahakari Bhandar, and Regal Cinema, near Woodside Inn
Bombay 400039, India
+919820213816 email@example.com clarkhouseinitiative.org
Clark House Initiative, Bombay is a curatorial practice about a place, which in sharing a junction with two museums and a cinema, mirrors the fiction of what these spaces could be. Clark House was once an office of pharmaceutical research, an antiques store, and the shipping office of the Thakur Shipping Company that had links to countries in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Japan. Curatorial interventions in the space hope to continue, differently, this history of internationalism, experiment and research. It was established in 2010 as a curatorial collaborative concerned with ideas of freedom.