U Ngwe Aung is a prominent Burmese artist who’s donated seven landscapes to Proximity’s Crowdrise fundraiser. To learn more about his work (and learn how to get a hold of one of the paintings), read below:
“Painting is in my nature,” U Ngwe Aung says in between a smile and a chuckle, “when I was in grade five or six, I didn’t pay attention in class. I would see an image in my reference books, and I would just start sketching it out.” More than forty years of dedication has brought U Ngwe Aung a long way from copying textbooks. Nowadays, his enrapturing landscapes of Myanmar’s Shan State leap from the canvas, literally. The vibrant colors he uses are inspired by the deep, rich red soils of the region, which the artist then treats so that hues intermingle, crack and meld into one another to produce richly textured pieces that delight from up close and afar.
Nowadays, U Ngwe Aung has a busy schedule of upcoming exhibits both in Myanmar and abroad, but he had his start at the local Bogyoke Market, where reproductions of pagodas and monks are a dime a dozen and sold to tourists for pennies. U Ngwe Aung claims that what he did back then wasn’t “art,” and proceeds to poke fun at his old “copy-paste” style. “You copy what you see and you paste it on the canvas,” he explains with a good-natured chuckle. It was all about the market, about what customers wanted to buy.
It’s certainly ironic that he’s experienced much greater success once he moved past such considerations. His works are now valued at $2,000 and above, and they're often exhibited at River Gallery, among others. Nowadays, U Ngwe Aung is much more concerned with the process of creation than with the act of painting on its own. With these landscapes, he tells us he feels for the first time free to innovate, to join the picturesque with the playful, the insane, and the surreal.
When asked why he was so willing to donate his time and art to Proximity’s efforts to broaden on-the-ground support for rural farmers, he tells us: “For me giving is more about the receiver. As long as there is someone who is in need and sees value in what I am doing, then I will give.” What’s more, he adds, his own father was a farmer in Myanmar’s Delta region and struggled to send his son to art school in the capital. Especially when it comes to Myanmar, “most of our parents were farmers at one point,” U Ngwe Aung explains. At Proximity, we’re humbled by U Ngwe Aung’s generosity, and are excited to share his creations with the broader global community (cough, cough, you).
To take a closer look at the seven paintings donated by U Ngwe Aung, check out this gallery we've created.