Maung Di Sculpts Modernism in Myanmar

By Wei Yan Aung 9 August 2017

It has not been long since modern art found its place in Myanmar. For years, modern artists received little to no appreciation for their aesthetic creations.

Among them was Maung Di, who had to pretend not to hear people criticizing his work some decades ago. He could do nothing about people’s lack of appreciation and had to hold back some of his ideas.

Finally, Maung Di, who is also a renowned poet and short story writer, is showcasing some of the objects that he had wanted to create almost 40 years ago.

His ninth solo show, Maung Di’s East Village Sculpture Series, features two paintings – Nude and Black & White – and 10 objects: Passing Ozone, Space Crystal, Light Crystal, In & Out, The Smile of a Comedian, Leaf, Portrait of Maung Di and more.

The Light Crystal was created with two tical (just over half an ounce) of gold.

“I wanted to create this piece with gold, but could not afford it. I made it only after my daughter bought me the gold,” Maung Di told The Irrawaddy.

He created Passing Ozone in 1993. It is a 1.5 square foot plexiglass sheet with a hole in the center. It was a favorite of the late celebrated vocalist Khin Wan, said Maung Di.

The sculpture entitled In & Out is a large plexiglass sheet with nine small holes. Maung Di said: “People on the other side can be insiders, and likewise, people on this side can be outsiders. We don’t know which side we belong to.”

Born in a small village in Pakokku District in 1941, the 76-year-old artist said the exhibition was to commemorate his birthday.

“I hope this exhibition will open the eyes of Myanmar’s sculptors. I want them to be aware that there are many types of sculpture other than Rodin,” said Maung Di, referring to works by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin.

Maung Di, who was deemed to be one of the pioneers of modernism in Myanmar in the late 1960s, will be present with his works through Wednesday at the Ahla Thit Gallery on University Avenue Road in Bahan Township.

Maung Di, who has only organized nine solo exhibitions since his first one in 1979, said: “I do what I feel like I should do. I display what I believe in, not for money, not for fame.”