Young Painter Brings the World of His Imagination to Life in 1st Solo Show

By Lwin Mar Htun 17 May 2019

“It is a fictional world that I created out of all my influences from my unapologetic personal perspective. It turns these into a whole world of images,” said artist Bart, 23, about his very first solo exhibition, which will be held on May 18 at the Myanm/art gallery in Yangon.

He added, “I named it ‘God Complex’; it’s my own world born out of a collision of art and ego. It features my own rules, my own character, my own favorite colors and other things.”

When he was in the 8th grade, Bart started drawing and first used spray paint as a graffiti artist. Last year he earned a diploma in Fine Arts from Lasalle College of the Arts.

“All these years, I’ve been doing the same thing,” said Bart—his “tag name” as a graffiti artist (he also goes by “Bart Was Not Here”). He was born Kyaw Moe Khine.

Bart has participated in a number of Street Art and Lowbrow Art exhibitions in Yangon and abroad, including in Singapore and London. Now that his first solo exhibition is a reality, he’s excited about it.

“The first solo thing is crazy,” Bart said with a laugh.

Bart writes ‘God Complex’ on a wall with spray paint. / Htet Wai

“I never thought I’d do a solo show, but it’s happened, because I have a story to tell, and this is it. When I think about this, my first story, it’s scary. I’m nervous,” he said.

Though he has exhibited with other people in group shows and done live events, “I never felt nervous about showing my art in public. This is like the first time I’ve ever felt scared,” he said.

Bart describes “God Complex” as the result of all 23 years of his experience. His lists Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights”, Roy Lichtenstein, Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” and the pop surrealist movement as his main influences.

“You will see all the experiences I have had in my show. All the books I have read, all the music I have been listening to, the movies I have watched, all the things I’ve been through. It’s all come together and combined into this one story, which is ‘God Complex’,” Bart explained.

The story of “God Complex” is about the romantic hunger for power and dominance. Bart’s main character, Jinn, is taken from the genies of Islamic mythology with a pop culture twist.

“I think it’s about the chase—about what happens next after you get power or acquire power—and what comes before that, like what triggers you to chase power or hunt for power or, you know, do something for power. I think that’s the theme of the whole story,” Bart said.

A table in Bart’s studio covered in paint and spray cans. / Htet Wai

He added, “But you can also look at it as being about control. If you look at from a more positive perspective, it’s more about control.”

In Islamic mythology, there are angels, devils, humans and genies. Genies are not of fixed appearance, and can be good or bad.

“I like that concept and I was able to create my character freely because it’s never stated what [a genie] looks like. Audiences can judge whether my Jinn is good or bad from this exhibit,” Bart said, explaining how he created his character.

A total of seven paintings will be displayed at the exhibition.

“The reason I chose to do seven paintings is because the Bible story said God created the world in seven days. ‘God Complex’ is like my new world. So I made a decision that I was gonna paint seven paintings. There will be a painting called ‘Adam and Eve’; I have my version of ‘Adam and Eve’,” Bart said.

The paintings in the exhibition could be described as pop surrealist in style, though he resists labeling his work.

“I don’t know how to categorize my paintings because it’s like each one is different, but if you consider them all together as one story, in terms of categories or genres I think it’s pop surrealism. I don’t know how to label it,” Bart said.

“Let’s just call it ‘Bart’ style,” he said laughing.

Bart Was Not Here with his own graffiti wall. / Htet Wai

According to Bart, people can see everything about him in his artwork. He says that creating art helped him to become a new person because it gives him an outlet for his darker impulses, and his ego.

“It’s just like a trash bin. Everything that I think about that I have, like, a conflict about, or that I feel a push-and-pull about, I just dumped it all into ‘God Complex’ and I came out as a new person. It’s like therapy for me,” he said.

He added, “I think it’s gonna be something different for people.”

He hopes people come and experience the full story of “God Complex” at his show.

“I hope people come and use their imagination, because I’m giving you a chance to make up your own story about what happened before and after the story you see in the paintings. Then, do something with the information you get from this show. That’s what I want to achieve from this show,” Bart said.

The exhibition opens on Saturday, May 18 at 6 p.m. Top local hip-hop artist J-Me will DJ at the event. The exhibition runs until June 12.

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