The Art of Myanmar’s (Crushed) Transition

Painting Myanmar’s Transition is edited by Ian Holliday and Aung Kaung Myat and published by Hong Kong University Press. It is reviewed for JCA by Kevin Hewison.

The 80 paintings included in the book are drawn from Ian Holliday’s much larger Thukhuma Collection.

This book was meant as a showcase for the art of the country’s transition from a previous era of military tutelage to electoral politics. However, the 2021 coup intervened, casting a dark shadow over any notion of a political transition.

Even so, the paintings collected in this book illustrate some of the hopes, struggles, and flaws of the period before the military reasserted itself. The artist interviews also reflect disappointment with the elected regime, disdain for the military, and the isolation of COVID-19. In this sense, “misery and despair” seem to overwhelm the optimism of the earlier era. That era did encourage a flowering of art in Myanmar, and, with this book’s publication, the artists’ skill, emotion and thought are presented for a wider audience.

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