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A journey to Laos – ‘The Land of a Million Elephants’

Well-known Burmese artists on show at the new Suriya Gallery

 

A journey to Laos – ‘The Land of a Million Elephants’

 

Well-known Burmese artists on show at the new Suriya Gallery

Elena Edwards
Chiang Mai, haven for artists and art lovers, has one more gallery now. The Suriya Gallery, off Huay Kaew Road, is showing a range of contemporary Burmese artists in an open setting. Suriya owners, Aung Soe Min and Nance Cunningham, are happy to bring these well-known Burmese artists to a wider public, and to show their new work to those who cannot make it to Yangon.

Aung Soe Min and Nance Cunningham are the proprietors of the new Suriya Gallery in Chiang Mai.
The recent opening of the Suriya Gallery was a friendly and busy occasion, with delicious Burmese food being served with refreshingly cold Shan tea. Art-lovers milled about, admiring the artists’ atmospheric, colourful and often exuberant canvasses, which represented many different styles and subjects and used various media. Aung and Nance, obviously in love with their work, had problems dividing their time between serving the refreshments and answering countless questions about the artists and their subjects. No pretensions here, just wonderful art and friendly, knowledgeable people.
The couple fully support 5 Burmese artists by buying all their work, and regularly accept submissions from many more, to be shown either in their Pan Sodan Road gallery in downtown Yangon, or here in Chiang Mai. Around 30 paintings are being exhibited here at present, representing 10 artists, plus a large selection of imported hand-drawn copies of Pagan mural paintings representing mythical and Buddhist themes.
Some paintings, such as the impasto Mandalay scenes of Aung Naing Maung, the very different dancers of Myo Nyunt Khin and Soe Naing, the Rakhine and Shan views of Thant Myint Aung, and the Yangon scenes of Moat Thone, explicitly draw on Burmese culture and landscapes. Others, such as Eikaza Cho’s tumbling figures, Than Htay Maung’s expedition series, Soe Naing’s subliminal creatures, and Kyi May Kaung’s collages, are entirely in the landscape of the mind. All are beautiful in their own way.
For the art-lover, it is the colours which strike the eye first - some incredibly bright, combining non-complimentary colours in a most unusual and successful manner, others subtle and gentle, irresistibly drawing the viewer into the subject.
Unusually for this writer, there was not one single painting which was ‘unliveable with.’ And more than several which would have been wonderful to wake up to each morning. Given the conditions under which the Burmese people are forced to live, the joyful and thoughtful expressions of the artists’ perceptions are all the more astonishing.
The Suriya Gallery also has a coffee shop and cafe, serving delicious northern Thai coffee and Shan tea, with free wireless internet, in a refreshing studio-like atmosphere. Open all hours (or at least until 10 p.m.) - every day - this is a great place to sit, relax, admire, and even buy!
Nance has spent 8 years in Burma, working in public heath and Aids prevention, and is of course fluent in the Burmese language. In their spare time (what spare time?) she and her partner Aung are compiling a definitive Burmese/English dictionary, the pocket version of which is due out at the end of this month. From January, they will hold regular Burmese conversation classes at all levels from advanced beginner to advanced.
Framing can be expensive here in Chiang Mai, however Nancy and Aung have many of their works beautifully framed at very reasonable prices at a small workshop owned by Jintavanee, a local wood-worker. It’s located in Soi Bua Luang, which is just off the Holiday Garden Hotel on Huay Kaew Road. Drive past the hotel, turn right, then right again at the next crossing into a small lane. Jintavanee’s sub-workshop is on the right, his main workshop is on the left in his compound. You can email him on jintavanee_house @hotmail.com, or call on 089-701-8990/084-045-7499. Well worth finding if you need a picture framed.
The Suriya Gallery is located off Huey Kaew Road, in the first Soi on the left coming into town from the Canal Road. Parking is easy, just turn into the compound behind the ‘Nail Shop’ on the corner. The address is 16/1, Huey Kaew Road, tel:- 053-221-969.