Bagyi Aung Soe

b. 1924, d. 1990, Yangon, Myanmar

Bagyi Aung Soe is recognized by many of his contemporaries in Myanmar as one of the pioneers of modern art – if not the father of modern Myanmar art. It is his non-figurative illustration for Kyi Aye’s writing in the Shumawa issue of January 1953 which gave rise to the label of “seik-ta-za-bagyi”, meaning “mad art” – an expression still used in Myanmar to refer to “modern art”. His career spanned more than four decades, beginning in illustration work in the year of Independence in 1947, until his death in July 1990.

What he attempted through art were interpretations of the principles of spiritual and mental conditioning behind the conception and fabrication process of religious or mystical symbols and diagrams. He was fascinated with the application of mental power to art. Moreover, the fact that he did not reserve himself to the use of sacred symbols and language to express his spiritual experiences speaks volumes about his position with regard to the sacred as an artist. In many works, the most basic graphic components like lines and colours are used to transcribe the visions and sensations resulting from the fire, wind, water and earth elements observed in the body during insight meditation. Aung Soe also elaborated original graphic symbols and compositions out of letters of the Latin alphabet. Legibility becomes secondary to the combination of forms; the rethinking of forms becomes the focus.

Biography information from Ocula, June 2023

Country: Myanmar