When visual artist Arker Kyaw comes home from work, he usually sits for a few minutes in front of his aquarium, gazing at the movement of his pet, Asian Arowana fish, which he named Luckie.

Just like countless other pet fish owners, Kyaw believes that arowanas are a symbol of good luck and prosperity. Being near them calms the artist and brings him inspirations.

“My pet fish takes away my tiredness and gives motivation,” Kyaw said.

Such was the story behind the artist’s latest series of paintings, now on display at his first solo exhibition, at River Gallery downtown from June 7 to 18. In total, there are 30 paintings on the theme. About 18 them are now are available for showing in an exhibition aptly entitled “Luckie and Me”.

“I have spent my youth going through hard times and battling for a better life. I feel as if I was in darkness. I believe that a person who climbs out of the darkness with courage will have a brighter life. I highlight this message in my paintings,” he said of his arts.

Kyaw rose to fame after painting a mural of then US President Barack Obama ahead of his historic visit to Myanmar in November 2012. The mural came under the spotlight, catapulting the artist to stardom.

He was invited to attend Obama’s historic speech at the University of Yangon and the media began paying attention. Kyaw’s other notable work was a mural of former Myanmar President U Thein Sein to mark his 68th birthday in June 2013.

Kyaw majored in fine arts at the National University of Art and Culture but never graduated. Instead, he chose to make his living drawing postcards and painting Buddha images. Then came the Obama mural, which changed his path forever.

“The year 2012 marked a turning point in my life. It brought me a lot of opportunities. If I had stopped trying, I would not have become the person I am today,” he reflected.

In 2014, Kyaw took part in two-person exhibition with artist Ngwe Aung, also at River Gallery. He also cofounded No 2 Art Area, a gallery and art space for young graffiti artists to create murals and to have events. Still, he longed for deeper satisfaction.

“I’ve wanted to have my solo exhibition for a decade now. The dream finally came true,” said Kyaw, who is widely known as a graffiti artist. He’s now planning for a second solo exhibition of his Luckie series.

“Luckie and Me”: Arker Kyaw’s Solo Exhibition
River Gallery Yangon (Beside Strand Hotel)

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