Sunday, August 20, 2017

The power of 8

Local artists draw on the revolutionary spirit of youth in ‘S8it’

Thu Myat stands in front of two of his pieces. Nyo Me/The Myanmar TimesThu Myat stands in front of two of his pieces. Nyo Me/The Myanmar Times

On the eve of the 29th anniversary of the 88 uprising, the student-led pro-democracy protests which were brutally suppressed by the military Junta, eight local artists delve into what it means to rebel.

In ‘S8it’, artists draw on their own perspectives of the political, economic and social issues which have shaped their country as well as those faced by young people today.

“In a political sense, something always happens in the eighth month, August,” said Thoe Htein, one of the artists whose work is featured in S8it.

“It is like an unlucky trend. So, we chose to call the exhibition ‘S8it’ which is a play on the word ‘shit’ and represents our dislike for the number eight.”

Veteran artist Myat Kyawt views a piece of art on show in S8it. Nyo Me/The Myanmar TimesVeteran artist Myat Kyawt views a piece of art on show in S8it. Nyo Me/The Myanmar Times

“We’ve also included eight because we, eight friends, are doing an exhibition in August.”

S8it features 35 paintings and eight photos, with the eight artists choosing against continuity of style, instead covering a range of mediums and themes.

“One thing different from other exhibitions is that we don’t create artworks under one theme. We draw as we wish,” said graffiti artist Thu Myat, who has four works featured in S8it.

One of Thoe Htein’s artworks ‘Revolutionary Generation’ looks at the self-sacrifice of Myanmar’s political prisoners and the way that revolutionary spirit transfers from one generation to the next. The acrylic on canvas piece shows an adult man wearing a white longyi, his hands and feet bound by chains, standing over a crying infant.

“People who took part in the revolutions were sentenced to jail, however there is always a new generation of revolutionaries.”

Thoe Htein explains the meaning behind his piece ‘Revolutionary Generation’. Nyo Me/The Myanmar TimesThoe Htein explains the meaning behind his piece ‘Revolutionary Generation’. Nyo Me/The Myanmar Times

“It [Revolutionary Generation] talks about politicians. It represents both younger and older generations, showing that there is always a class who is eager to fight for the truth,” said renowned artist Myat Kyawt.

All the works featured in S8it prompt viewers to self reflect, says the 52-year-old.

“I can feel that strokes of the artworks have been created freely. Through all of the artworks, I can see some of them make me think deep thoughts while some show the youth’s’ point of view on a range of issues,” he told the Myanmar Times.

In ‘Shit No.3’ Thu Myat takes a sarcastic swipe at the current local trends in t-shirt design.

The piece features a mythical Myanmar creature which has been stencilled onto a burlap sack with the words ‘Fuck Burmese T-shit’ coming from its mouth.

“Around three or four artists began creating t-shirt designs based on ornamental cultural motifs. But now, shirt designs just have sentences like ‘Am I handsome’ or something like that and the designs are becoming wackier and I don’t like it,” he said.

Myat Kyawt said, “With so much variety from the artists, this exhibition will create different feelings for different people.”

S8it runs until August 8 at Bo AungKyaw Street Art Gallery. No.287/289 (1st floor), Bo AungKyaw Street (Middle), Kyauktada Township (Above Yoma Bank), Yangon