Hometown: Dah Bein Village (outskirts of Yangon)
Aung Khaing started studying art when he was 11 years old. There was a streak of modern art in his style even at that young age. Unfortunately, he was way ahead of his time in the traditional Myanmar society and his teachers dubbed his style “deformed”. Despite the harsh criticism, he pursued his passion and continued learning art.
His breakthrough as an artist came in the 1960s when he was asked to draw a portrait mural of Thakin Kodaw Hmaing, one of the greatest Burmese poets and political leaders in 20th century Burma, on the wall of the Thahton student hall at Rangoon University. Impressed with his sketch, the student leaders of the university magazine asked Aung Khaing to draw illustrations for the magazine, which he became in charge of.
In his quest to study modern art, Aung Khaing drew inspiration from famous Myanmar modern artists of the time, such as Bagyi Aung Soe and Khin Maung Yin. Paw Oo Thet became his mentor. One day, Swe Aung Thame, another famous modern artist, told Aung Khaing “You cannot learn modern art. You have to start painting. It is like climbing a ladder and jumping off.” This advice changed Aung Khaing’s approach and it is an advice that he still holds dear to his heart. It inspired him and helped him regain confidence that he lost.
He started exhibiting his work in the 1970s and participated in about 26 group exhibitions. In 1984, he tried having a solo exhibition at the Art and Artisan Association at the famous Boyoke Market in Yangon. However, the censorship board rejected his entire collection of 120 paintings. To earn a living, Aung Khaing went back to drawing illustrations. Despite the censorship, his passion for creation was very much alive. He produced over 40,000 sketches. He did not re-emerge into the art scene until 2010. He held two successful solo exhibitions in Lokanat (2013) and Pansodan (2014) galleries. His most successful international exhibitions were “Banned in Burma: Painting Under Censorship” in 2014, and “Burma By Proxy: Art at the Dawn of Democracy” in 2015 at Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre in Hong Kong.
Click here to see Aung Khaing's artwork.