Art for dance’s sake

Writer: 
Pyae Sone Nay Win

For nearly seven decades, Mya Than has been recognised as a highly respected master artist best known for his portrayal of the iconic Kinnara(mythical bird) couple and other traditional duet dancers. Now he’s taking a break from drawing the celestial dancers to devote his time to a different genre. The artist’s staging an exhibition at Hninsi Myaing Art Gallery to celebrate his 81st birthday. Myanmar Eleven met him there recently for a rare peek into his world of art and his long artistic career. 

Tell us about this exhibition.

This is my fourth solo exhibition. The last one was held in 2009. This solo exhibition is designed to mark my 81st birthday. The aim is to show the next generation act that paintings should be drawnseen as historical records. I painted all 69 paintings, which are currently on exhibit within four months this year. Just like the saying ‘Don’t touch the paint if you can’t handle gray [colour]’, which is said in the art world, the paintings are based on gray colour.

When did you start painting?

I started drawing duet dancers in 1965. I have created over 1,500 paintings of duet dancers throughout my entire life. I created film posters, illustrations, and signboards before devoting all my time to painting. A painter needs his own style and I was so interested in dancing. That’s why I studied dancing and created these paintings.

Many artists paint duet dancers. How’s your work different from theirs?

I personally learned how to dance and tried to understand the subject before I started painting.  So, my paintingslook rather lively, and I believe that you can see the movements of dancers in my paintings if you look carefully.

How did you earn the title ‘Star’ Mya Than?

I entered the art scene at the age of 13 in 1947. I started drawing and painting duet dancers in 1965. The art world started calling me ‘Star’ Mya Than in 1969 because they thought I was a ‘star artist’ when it comes to painting duet dancers.

Why did you stop painting duet dancers?

I have only painted so many pictures of duet dancers throughout my entire life that I got tired of them. I want to create a variety of paintings like landscape, ink painting, lead painting, and portraits. That’s why I’ve been taking a break from painting the dancers for the last two years. Lately I’ve begun painting what I care about.

Any advice for new-generation art students?

An artist must cultivate his or her own style, but he or she needs to be able to study a variety of subjects.