Burmese Surrealist Sticks to His Guns
By Aye Chan Myae 21 March 2014
RANGOON — Having poured out his feelings on canvases for nearly 50 years, Burma’s famous surreal artist San Minn has saved enough paintings for his third “Gun Series” solo show this week.
With previous solo shows in 2008 and 2009 in Rangoon and Chiang Mai, respectively, the 63-year-old painter is back to Burma’s former capital for the showing of his latest “Gun Series III.” As the title of the show suggests, nearly all of the paintings and installation artwork at his 11th solo show vividly depict guns, but with underlying meanings subject to interpretation.
Government censorship came to an end in 2012 and San Minn—whose artwork was once particularly prone to the red marker—is clearly enjoying the lack of scrutiny, with his latest solo show offering a more pointblank and critical body of work, especially toward the current government.
As an example: In a painting titled “Top Gun,” a man in Burmese traditional dress is silhouetted in white, standing against a background of commando fatigue patterning.
“The people who are now ruling our country are somewhat related to the military,” San Min offers.
In another painting, titled “Fear of Fear,” San Minn foregrounds a silhouetted white revolver against characters from horror movies he has seen.
“If you watch a horror movie, you feel terrified during the time that you’re watching it, but if you are ruled with a gun, the fear you feel is difficult to vanquish,” he explains.
With private collectors of his artwork from the United States, Europe and Asia as well as an exhibition at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, San Minn has been practicing surrealism for the last 20 years, after dabbling in the early years of his career in various other art trends.
The reason for his two-decade commitment to the strange?
“I have been sticking to it as it helps me depict what I see in my mind’s eye,” he says.
San Minn’s “Gun Series III” is open to the public at Lokanat Gallery until March 22.
To read about San Minn’s 2009 solo show in Chiang Mai, check out The Irrawaddy’s coverage here.