Intersections of the Literary & Artistic Worlds in Myanmar & the Region in the 20th Century, 17/11/2017, Singapore
This proposed one-day symposium corresponds to the last leg of the NTU-funded project on AungSoeillustrations.org, a database of illustrations by Myanmar’s trailblazer of modern art, Bagyi Aung Soe (1923–1990).
The examination of Aung Soe’s dated illustrations, which are the only means to tracing his artistic evolution between 1948 and 1990, led to the awareness of the crucial role played by illustration in the development, dissemination and documentation of 20th-century art in Myanmar. With neither governmental support nor a developed art market, illustration in printed matter was the artist’s mobile showcase and the platform for artistic experimentations. Whether in Mandalay or Yangon, artists both mainstream and avantgarde illustrated: book covers, magazine covers, album covers, posters, illustrations and vignettes inside publications, etc.
The rise of Aung Soe in the years following the country’s political independence is inextricably linked to the support of Myanmar’s foremost literary figures: Dagon Taya (1919–2013) who initiated him to Western modernism; Min Thu Wun (1909–2004) and Zawgyi (1908–1990) who nominated him for the Indian government scholarship to study art at Visva-Bharati University founded by Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941) in Santiniketan, India, thereby mandating him with the revival of traditional Burmese art. Indeed, as in many countries in the region, Burmese writers and poets were ahead of the artists in addressing the urgency and challenges of a localised artistic modernity. Today, artists, writers, poets, publishers and filmmakers continue to work closely together in Myanmar; the divide between the literary and artistic worlds is fallacious. Specialisation is not necessarily a condition of artistic excellence in this part of the world, for an artist writes as well as publishes, and a poet paints as well as edits: the worlds of artistic creation, literature and filmmaking are symbiotic.
This symposium seeks to:
- investigate the hitherto overlooked medium and agency of illustration in the articulation of “art” in Myanmar and the region;
- discern geneses of “art” in Myanmar and the region from the perspective of the literary world;
- explore ways of thinking and writing about “art” beyond that yoked to the Euramerican experience and agenda;
- reflect on common threads and divergences in the way(s) in which modern art emerged in tandem with developments in the literary world in Myanmar and the region.
Intersections of the Literary & Artistic Worlds in Myanmar & the Region in the 20th century welcomes papers engaging with any of these four above-listed tropes. Areas of interest include but are not restricted to:
- Illustration as a site for articulating artistic modernities in Myanmar and the region
- Illustration as a means of making sense of constructs and paradigms of “art” in Myanmar and the region
- Illustration as image, body and medium in “art” in Myanmar and the region
- Writings on art and their role(s) in shaping artistic practice, production and reception in Myanmar and the region
- Literature and the writer in art; art and the artist in literature in Myanmar and the region
- Narratives of collaboration, dialogue, debate or/and contention between writers, artists, poets, filmmakers, editors, publishers, critics, etc. in Myanmar and the region
- Ecosystems of writers, artists, poets, filmmakers, editors, publishers, critics, etc. in Myanmar and the region