Blooms from Burma
Pamela Shields talks to artist Khin Myint

Apart from yours truly, some people do lead interesting lives although in the case of local artist Khin Myint, one can't help thinking of the old Chinese curse: 'May you live in interesting times'  for she would much prefer not to.
       Khin Myint (pronounced Kin Me-int - it means loving person) is from Burma, today sadly run by a brutal, corrupt regime - in the news again for holding Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in 'protective custody'. Suu Kyi is a friend of Khin's family. Ten more members of the pro-democracy movement have just been thrown in jail and all the universities have been closed to stop protests.
       One of five children, father a doctor, mother a teacher, Khin grew up in Rangoon where, because Burma was once under British rule, 25% of the population speak English. Luckily, Khin, who has an MSc in biology from Rangoon University, has a gift which helps her deal with the horror her country is suffering, and is able to express her feelings in her paintings. Traditionally, Burmese art reflects the country's Buddhist culture and depicts variations on a theme of pagodas and monks but Khin., along with others, broke with tradition.
       Well-known in Burma, she was one of the first to experiment with abstract art when she was a member of the 'Movement', a controversial group which started exhibiting in the capital during the 1960s. Introducing Burma to Modern Art, its aim was to break the taboos stifling the country culturally.
       By 1976, the hanging committee was made up of representatives of the Ministries of Culture, Information and Education and, astonishingly, Military Intelligence. Shades of the Nazi book burnings. The 'Movement' is no more, its members have moved away or died, but a new generation of artists is still trying to break from traditional Burmese art.
       In 1990 the military junta overrode the election victory of Suu Kyi's Party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) which won 82% of the seats in the election and put Khin's closest friend, PA to Suu Kyi in prison. Khin left for the UK, enrolled on a post-graduate teaching course and studied while she taught biology in a school in Essex. Her father and two brothers are still in Burma and she still goes back every year to visit  them.
       Unable (as yet) to earn a living from art,  Khin now works for the BBC World Service dealing with letters from Burmese listeners so is very much in touch with what is happening there.

Copyright ®  KHIN MYINT 2012
       The Service is very important in Burma as an objective source of information. In 1996 she married a British journalist and moved to Rickmansworth.        
       Her exhibition Untrampled Flowers is showing at the Apthorp Gallery at the Radlett Centre. The title, for the benefit of esoteric, or do I mean erudite readers learning Burmese from restaurant menus, comes from an old Burmese saying: Beoak ka ta yo hnit yo ma bayda ka tabin dai a yet a kan ma khan ya lo pan pan hlyaw par.
       'When the flock of birds descend on the water hyacinths, there will always be at least some blooms that survive'.  In other words, no matter what bad cards life deals, the spirit, somehow, survives.
       A lover of Monet, with an interest in Chinese and Japanese art, Khin's work is a synthesis of Burmese ethnic art (she uses hessian, batik, string, gold leaf) and western abstract. Although traditional motifs of owls (lucky omens in Burma) horses and water lilies crop up, to celebrate her liberation, she sometimes can't resist painting a nude just for the hell of it (nudes are banned in Burma). Mind you, they're very tasteful, usually seen from the back or, like the one in this exhibition, faceless.
       Can we buy Khin's astonishingly beautiful works of art to hang in our homes and wow the neighbours? We can. Prices are very affordable and range between 100 and 1,000.
       Her exhibition can be viewed until June 28th, open 10am-4pm Monday- Saturday and in the evenings before performances at the centre.
       If you can't make the exhibition, you can log on to Khin's web-site www.khinmyint.co.uk to view her work.
       By the way, if you believe in portents, it looks as if the days of the junta are numbered. How else can we interpret the breathtaking news that 90 years after it was last seen, feared extinct, Gurney's Pitta, a spectacularly beautiful bird, last week returned to Burma.

* The Radlett Centre, 1 Aldenham Avenue, Radlett, Herts WD7 8HL. Telephone 01923 857546 radlettcentre@aol.com or www.radlettcentre.co.uk Can be found at the junction between  Aldenham Avenue and Radlett's main road, Watling Street. (Parking outside with a further 100 spaces across the road.)
       Some of Khin's work is also included in another exhibition in Radlett from June 15th, Abstract & Representational Exhibition at the McNeill Fine Art Gallery. It can also be seen at Art on the Hill, 25 Chalk Hill, Watford, Herts. Contact 01923 244884, tvc-@dircon.co.uk

from OPTIMA, June 14th 2003
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khin myint