Painting Myanmar’s Transition


Edited by Ian Holliday and Aung Kaung Myat

ISBN : 978-988-8528-67-7

Film, Media, Fine Arts

June 2021

196 pages, 7″ x 10″, 80 color illus.

  • HK$450.00

In Painting Myanmar’s Transition, Ian Holliday and Aung Kaung Myat showcase work produced by local artists during a period of significant reform. In the 2010s, Myanmar moved away from half a century of rigid military rule and a wave of liberalization spread across the country. Artists eagerly embraced the new freedoms and, in so doing, captured their nation at a time of considerable fluidity.

This book presents paintings by, and concise companion interviews with, eighty artists. Collectively, the paintings from the 2010s and the interviews from 2020 reveal the lived experience of Myanmar’s reform years and the aspirations expressed by citizens for the future. They assume an almost elegiac quality in the aftermath of a 2021 military coup that brought the transition to a crashing halt and cast a dark cloud over the society.

Placed alongside each other, the eighty paintings and the reflections of the artists who created them offer rare insights into a landmark decade in Myanmar. Together, they conjure a set of nuanced understandings of a pivotal Southeast Asian state navigating complex political change and building dreams that, in the event, were all too suddenly shattered.

Ian Holliday is Vice-President (Teaching and Learning) at the University of Hong Kong. He is the author of Burma Redux: Global Justice and the Quest for Political Reform in Myanmar (2011), co-author with Roman David of Liberalism and Democracy in Myanmar (2018), and co-editor with Adam Simpson and Nicholas Farrelly of Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Myanmar (2018). Aung Kaung Myat is a research postgraduate student in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong.

‘This is a unique testimony to the vibrant art scene that emerged during Burma’s transition following a long period of military dictatorship. Giving voice to eighty contemporary artists, the book makes a serious contribution by presenting a kaleidoscope of tradition and innovation. It is a must-read for anyone interested in Burmese art.’ —Catherine Raymond, director of the Center for Burma Studies, Northern Illinois University

‘Vibrant and dynamic, this selection of paintings by contemporary Myanmar artists encapsulates an all-too-brief moment of political, societal, and artistic liberation during Myanmar’s decade of democracy. But what energy, what buoyancy, what resilience leaps out from these pages! A timely, poignant, increasingly necessary publication.’ —Wendy Law-Yone, author of Golden Parasol: A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma