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Our relationship, connection, and conversations with our mothers can be rather extraordinary and is a rather unique topic to examine. This may or not be exactly the point the artist is trying to prove but it’s what I take in from the Memorial Exhibition at Lokanat Galleries down in Pansodan.

Phyoe Kyi (1977-2018) is a graphic designer, screen-printer, installation and performance artist based in Taunggyi. Before his untimely demise, he was involved in and led many exhibitions from 1996 to 2017 both locally and internationally. He experimented with different styles of painting from silkscreen printing to using acrylic paint on either Shan paper or canvas. A pop artist by style and technique but not by theme, Phyoe expressed his ‘bittersweet’ relationship with his mother—a rather intimate theme that isn’t normally categorized together with the ‘textbook’ norm of Pop Art that involves around the culture, society or even consumerism.

His triptychs and diptychs may revolve on mostly silkscreen prints of both new and old pictures of his family—which was just him and his mother—I couldn’t help but relate to the deeper meaning behind the concept of a maternal relationship. Being an artist may not be the ideal job for many Myanmar mothers, with many worrying about their child’s future and wellbeing—sometimes this can develop into something more stern. For Phyoe Kyi, however, this limbo of a mother worrying and a son revolting or even choosing a risky path became the focal point of many of his works.

A triptych.

A piece worthy of analysis would be Mother and Son #4, 2017. A triptych with a basic color scheme using both silkscreen printing and acrylic paint on canvas. It’s not the color scheme that grabs my attention but the story that is told.

A three-part story on the most important stages of his life, early childhood, late childhood, and later adulthood. There was almost no narrative in the first part, with different pictures of a happy family and a much younger picture of his mother.

The second, however, told a different story: a story of a mother who’ve accepted the fact her son is doing honest work with good intentions. In a letter from his mother, also printed on the canvas, it says: “Although we may not be rich, I want us to be pure and innocent in the long term.”

The third part is similar to the second, but with his mother fully content with the fact that her son is an artist.

To the regular visitor, Phyoe Kyi’s works may resemble a comic book and without his presence, it would seem hard to grasp his true intentions. It is saddening and nostalgic, maybe it might just be me, but Phyoe Kyi was a very talented person. This show is organized by his close friends and will go on till the 15th. Don’t miss it!

Lokanat Galleries – No.62, Corner of Merchant street and Pansodan Street, Kyauktada Township, Yangon

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