Missing Asia – Observing Europe

19 Nov 2009 > 16 Jan 2010
artist(s): Htein Lin

As part of a new initiative, Tasneem Gallery offers us a testimony, a journey to the subjectivity of the Burmese artist Htein Lin.

It is a project in which several of the lines of thought that are shaping the Gallery come together: ideas linked to identities, post-colonialism, cultural fragmentation, the real possibilities of interchange and of mutual understanding.

Htein Lin’s work shows us a before and an after, displayed in no chronological order or any conventional historicity. The passage of time is sequenced by means of personal experiences such as his exile, imprisonment, political activism and his own artistic practice, understood now to be a vital process which is constantly being reformulated. These intense biographical moments outline, simply, the general tone of his paintings.

This continuous invention of himself follows many paths: his Buddhist faith, his interpretation of touristic sights, the reconstruction of the cities, the romantic figure of travel and his new status as an immigrant in Europe. Thus, the mixed use of symbols, icons and colours restructure the intimate and social space in his work. It offers us a metaphor on living together and the panoramic image of an idealised, continuous environment.

Htein Lin not only surprises and observes: he travels with his story; he takes it apart, processes it, integrates it and reconstructs it, like an open story in permanent dialogue with his own everyday life.

In his work, he substitutes the desire to highlight differences for an alliance, in his search he proposes a communion between spaces, conflict, incompatibilities and inequalities. He explores his perspective of Europe and Asia creating analogies and proximities between them, perceiving them as plural, hybrid, cross-cultural spaces, where he has his own place which can be recognised.

The exhibition will take place in our gallery from 19th November 2009 to 16th January 2010, and the exhibition catalogue contains a contextual essay written by the Spanish journalist Xavier Vidal-Folch, deputy editor of the newspaper El País and president of the World Editors Forum.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the artist will give a talk on Wednesday 18th November at 19.30 in the main branch of the bookshop Altair at Gran Via 616, entitled Htein Lin: El arte bajo coacción (Htein Lin: Art under coercion), in which he will talk to us about his life under the military junta and the art he created during his six and a half years as a political prisoner.

About the artist

Htein Lin was born in Burma in 1966. At university he studied Law and performed Anyeint (traditional Burmese theatre), before leading student protests in the 1988 pro-democracy uprising and going into exile in the jungle for 4 years. He worked as a comic actor and artist, pioneering performance art in Burma, prior to his imprisonment from 1998 to 2004.

While in prison, he developed printing and painting techniques that enabled him secretly to create hundreds of paintings on prison uniforms using smuggled-in materials and items in his cell such as plates, mats, and cigarette lighters. Following his release, he has continued to paint and do performance art, building on the techniques he developed in jail. His work draws on his extraordinary life experiences, events in Burma, and his deep Buddhist faith.

Htein Lin`s work has been exhibited in the UK, US, Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Italy.