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Remembering a Painter of Burmese Heroes

Kyaw Phyo Tha The Irrawaddy

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RANGOON — Even though Myeik Winn Htain is best known for his beautiful and delicate sketches in graphic novels of the 1980s and 1990s, he could have just as well established a reputation more recently for his paintings that seemed to bring the fierce soldiers of legendary Burmese battles to life.

The 58-year old retired as a graphic novel artist in 2000 and turned his attention to painting. In 2006, his solo exhibition “Heroes of Burma” made a splash with paintings depicting the epic battles of ancient Burmese history. Last month, he and his wife, the artist Nang, launched a joint art exhibition in Rangoon at the Nawaday Alley Gallery, which is run by Burma’s ex-spy chief Khin Nyunt, to show off 58 of their paintings from the past seven years.

“Of all his paintings, the ones from ‘Heroes of Burma’ are the most successful and very well received,” Nang said. “International art collectors grabbed some of the paintings that depicted prominent women in our ancient history.”

Aung Soe Min, the co-founder of Pansodan Gallery in Rangoon, said Myeik Winn Htain also sketched comic strips based on the epic battles.

“He taught young people, through his works, to value our history,” the gallery founder said.

Myeik Winn Htain succumbed to a brain tumor in early August. In his final months he complained of frequent headaches but remained unaware of the cause of his pain. At the request of his family, his doctors did not reveal to him the serious nature of his tumor, saying it was benign.

“We didn’t let him know about it,” his wife told The Irrawaddy. “We didn’t want to depress someone who was happy working on his paintings most of the day.”

Still, he might have been aware of his approaching end. A few months before his death, the artist painted his friends, his teachers and his wife, as well as a self-portrait for himself. He told his wife that the exhibition last month at the ex-spy chief’s gallery might be his last.

But he held on, managing to prepare for another show after that in Rangoon, where he asked to say a “last goodbye” to his friends, according to his wife, because he was unsure whether he would ever see them again.

He proved to be a true prophet. On the morning of Aug. 10, he died at his home in Phyu, a small town 115 miles north of Rangoon.