Voices of Transition Contemporary Art from Myanmar
Private View: Wednesday, 15. November
16. November - 03. December
46 Ashfield Street, London, E1 2AJ
Lunn+Sgarbossa presents ‘Voices of Transition: Contemporary Art from Myanmar’, an exhibition of unprecedented size, scale and scholarly ambition in Europe to display contemporary artists from Myanmar.
This non-profit venture will mark the launch of Lunn+Sgarbossa, a nomadic art hub and multidimensional gallery platform founded by a young duo of London-based art dealers and gallerists, Maximilian Lunn and Davide Sgarbossa. The emphasis of this project is on unearthing an underexposed global narrative, demonstrating our aim to overhaul traditional art-world structures and expectations. This is part of Lunn+Sgarbossa’s mutual ambitions to become major London gallerists of tomorrow, with a strong international outlook in a Brexit era.
The exhibition focuses on the self-perception of the artist within Myanmar society. The works of these artists are rooted in a rich tradition of Theravada Buddhism, calligraphy, and performance art. And yet, their artistic productions are made distinct by radical new challenges and opportunities during the political transition process. The selected artists are vigilant to narrow categorisation and misrepresentation of their idiosyncratic perspectives and artistic outputs. Sensitive to this self-perception, we are stressing personal voices and merits and how, as individuals, these artists challenge established perceptions.
In our curation, we aim to communicate the dynamic experiences of artists in Myanmar from the inception of contemporary art in Myanmar in the 1980’s to the present day. Our title - ‘Voices of Transition’ – demonstrates our enquiry into the transitional context for contemporary artists, understanding the oppression of state censorship, and how artists have boldly fought to have their voices heard. We also place the work in a broader, non-artistic context and challenge the reality of the often quoted ‘transition to democracy’ of Myanmar post-2015. In essence, ‘Voices of Transition’ asks how we reconcile individual voices and national context, in order to understand societal ‘transition’.
For this project, our venue will be a twin-pair of newly renovated Georgian houses set over three floors and ten rooms; this expansive yet partitioned space allows for an array of voices to be heard with clarity. Visitors to the exhibition will be exposed to a carefully curated set of media and practises. Moe Satt (b. 1983) presents his captivating video-art ‘Hands around in Yangon’ (2017), which deals poignantly with the daily tasks of many pairs of hands, revealing through its hypnotic pace the inner-workings of a day in the life of Yangon. Aye Ko (b.1963), winner of the Joseph Balestier Freedom of the Art’s Prize 2017, prints striking and tortured self-depictions, through which we are able to reflect on his time as a political prisoner. Nge Lay’s (b.1979) visceral and disarming photography explores the effects of time on the bodies of the female role models from her personal life, illustrating a central curatorial tenet of the exhibition, the departure of the old and the emergence of a new generation.
The exhibition will display major new works from the ‘father of Burmese modern art’, artist Aung Myint (b.1946), whose artworks have been collected by the Guggenheim. Until the 2000s, the colours red and gold were largely censored in art and film for political and religious reasons. Aung Myint’s use of colour and reinterpretation of traditional calligraphic and mural techniques are radical acts of rebellion. Acclaimed performance artists from Myanmar will be performing in person at the exhibition. Performance art, requiring minimal tools beyond the artist’s own body, has been a crucial medium of social-political participation, protest and solidarity in the struggle for a democratic Myanmar. While paintings can be symbolic, performance art is a direct action of defiance.
Our team at Lunn+Sgarbossa has been establishing close relationships with the featured Myanmar artists since 2014, by nurturing personal friendships and professional ties with leading figures in the contemporary Myanmar arts community. The exhibition is a non-profit venture, with all catalogue sales being donated to the artist-led education initiative New Zero Art Space. This space, led by artist Aye Ko has pioneered the first artist-in-residence international exchange programme in Myanmar, ensuring transcontinental education and awareness. Collaboration with Aye Ko, an artist featured in the exhibition, has ensured a deep-felt commitment of Lunn+Sgarbossa to the avant-garde work of New Zero Art Space. Art and cultural historians from the Oxford University and beyond will write the catalogue. We believe that the exhibition and catalogue will go far in placing the contemporary cultural production of Myanmar to its deserved position in Western art historical discourse.