Essentialist Images

Essentialist Images

17 July 8 August 2020

Curated by Louis Ho

Featuring Works by: Aye Ko | Aung Ko | Htein Lin | Richie Htet | Maung Day| Nge Lay | Soe Yu Nwe Tun Win Aung and Wah Nu

Bangkok, 13 July 2020Richard Koh Fine Art (RKFA-SG) is pleased to announce a curated exhibition by Louis Ho, with works by 9 Burmese artists; Aye Ko, Aung Ko, Htein Lin, Richie Htet, Maung Day, Nge Lay, Soe Yu Nwe, Tun Win Aung & Wah Nu. Essentialist Images is scheduled to run from 17 July – 8 August 2020 at Richard Koh Fine Art, Blk 47 Malan Road, 01-26 Gillman Barracks, Singapore 109444.

Essentialist Images is an exhibition of contemporary Burmese art, and its oscillation between the static past and the persistently intrusive present. The writer and collector Andrew Ranard wrote of the modern era as it unfolded in Myanmar: “It was as if everything that Burma had achieved in the arts in the 20th century was worth nothing. Such attitudes are soothing to some Burmese, especially those who yearn to remain prisoners of that fantastic lost space which lies in ruins about them.”

While the ubiquitous panoply of traditionally-derived images that dominate popular forms of Burmese art from monks to landscapes are absent here, the work in this exhibition foreground other familiar tropes that have come to define the country in the twentieth century and beyond: political authoritarianism, the anti- colonial legacy, and, especially, the lingering spectre of its long, rich cultural history. The essentialist character of these works is not one of fixed geo-cultural essence, but a complication of received ideas and images, from iconography to anatomy to photographs to film, that serve as a response to contemporary issues that have increasingly stereotyped depictions of Myanmar today


Louis Ho is an independent curator and critic. He has lectured at the National Institute of Education, and is a contributor to various journals and publications, such as Modern Chinese Literature and Culture and ArtAsiaPacific. He was trained in art history, and his research interests include Southeast Asian visual culture and the intersections between art and the social. He was previously a curator at the Singapore Art Museum, where his first exhibition was the permanent collection show, ‘After Utopia: Revisiting the Ideal in Asia Contemporary Art’; other exhibitions included the ‘Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Prize 2018’ show. He was also a co-curator of the Singapore Biennale 2016, ‘An Atlas of Mirrors’.


Aye Ko (b.1963) is a painter and former political prisoner from Myanmar. He is one of Myanmar’s most profiled contemporary artists internationally. On 10 January 2017, he received the 2017 Joseph Balestier Award for the Freedom of Art. He is one of the founders of New Zero Art Space. Trained as a painter, Aye Ko first created impressionistic paintings before turning to performance art in the mid-1990s, to better express his advocacy for freedom and democracy in his native country. His choice was influenced by his experience of imprisonment (1990-1993) as a political prisoner. Ko saw in performance art a more direct way to engage with the audience and an ephemeral medium of expression through which he could better comment on the sociopolitical environment and situation in Myanmar.



Aung Ko (b.1980) studied Fine Art Painting at the University of Culture, Yangon. He exhibited in the group show “DEEP S.E.A. Contemporary Art from South East Asia”, at Primo Marella Gallery, Milan (2012), “Artist Beyond Boundaries” at The American Center in Yangon (2017) and many others exhibitions in Asia. Beyond the thematic role of the village in Aung Ko’s practice, his expression is fully community-centric, his performances and installations tied to the village and its people through production and participation. Ideas about geographies, histories, and customs emerge, pieces charting place and time through gesture and relic, an art recalling the transience, hope, and illusion of existence. Yet these creations are not pictorial replications of a pocket of rural Burma, but rather distillates of its imagery, rituals and rhythms, which combined, build an art telling idiosyncratic stories, while also obliquely questioning the system and values dominating the country today.



Htein Lin (b.1966) is a Burmese artist (painting, installation, performance), curator and writer. He has also worked as a comedian and actor. Work in Museums and Private Collections; M+ contemporary art museum, Hong Kong; ICRC Museum, Geneva; Singapore Art Museum; Staatliche Museum Funf Kontinente, Munich. Two of Htein Lin’s paintings on cloth were purchased for the US Embassy Yangon. Other works are in private collections in Belgium, France, Netherlands, India (including a specially commissioned piece, Night Shift, for Lekha Poddar, 2014), Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, US and UK. Other commissioned pieces are in Rosewood Hotels in Yangon and Phom Penh. His works are included in the Artists’ Pension Trust – Beijing collection.



Maung Day (b. 1979) is a Myanmar-born artist, poet, translator and development worker living in Yangon. He has published eight poetry books in Burmese and one chapbook in English. His poems have appeared in international journals such as Guernica, the Awl, the Wolf, International Poetry Review, Asymptote and Shampoo. In the 2000’s, he edited several art and literary magazines including Pan, a now defunct art magazine focusing on the local art scene and introducing international artists and movements. In 2008, with Moe Satt, he co-founded the celebrated Beyond Pressure International Performance Art Festival. His first solo exhibition debuted in Bangkok at H Project Space in 2011, curated by Brian Curtin. In 2017, Maung Day took part in Sunshower: Contemporary Art from South East Asia 1980’s to Now at Mori Art Museum, Tokyo. Maung Day has also shown his artworks in Germany, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Myanmar. He has contributed a number of essays on art and artists to local magazines and exhibition catalogues


Nge Lay (b.1979) has a Bachelor Degree in economics and in fine arts from Yangon University of Culture. Nge Lay’s work shows concern about gender issues and about the lack of freedom in her country. She expresses herself mainly through performance and installations art and photography. Together with her husband Aung Ko, Nge Lay has also been involved in a community project in her husband’s hometown Tuye’dan Village, an isolated place, 340 km from Yangon, where the main activities were the exploitation of the forest and making charcoal.


Soe Yu Nwe (b.1989) cross-cultural experience has inspired her to reflect upon identity through making. She creates hybridized beings that are fluid, fragile and fragmented. Through transfiguration of emotional landscape by poetically depicting nature and body in parts, she ponders the complexities of individual identity in our rapidly changing globalized societies. Having exhibited in 13 countries in the span of 4 years, Soe Yu was named in Forbes 30 Under 30, Art & Style List of 2019.



Wah Nu (b.1977) began her artistic activities after studying music at the University of Culture, Yangon. She currently works in various media, primarily painting and film. Wah Nu has been creating pop – style paintings through which she expresses her personal emotions, employing clouds and foliage as motifs. In tandem with painting, Wah Nu also creates films with a distinctive floating sense that evokes daydreaming.


Tun Win Aung (b.1975) employs a wide range of mediums including photography, video, and installation. His practice focuses on local histories and environments and he often collaborates with artist Wah Nu on largescale art projects and activities. Their works as a duo have been exhibited in institutional venues such as the Guggenheim Museum, New York, United States (2013); 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan (2011); and biennials including Singapore Biennale (2016); 4th Guangzhou Triennial, China (2011); and the 6th Asia Pacific Triennial, Brisbane, Australia (2009).


Founded in 2005, with spaces in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Singapore, Richard Koh Fine Art is committed to the promotion of Southeast Asian contemporary art on regional and international platforms. Centered around a core belief in developing an artist’s career, the gallery looks to identify understated, albeit promising practices, and providing it opportunities to flourish. Through its regular exhibition cycles, print & digital publications and cross-border gallery collaborations, Richard Koh Fine Art engages the art community with the aim of developing regional and intercultural dialogue.

For further information about the exhibition, please do not hesitate to contact Christiaan Haridas at +65 9788 4291 or email at

All images are subject to copyright.


Media enquires:                                             

TQPR Thailand

Tom Van Blarcom | Warin Pattarapatumthong

Tel:  0 2260 5820 /Fax: 0 2260 5847-8

Email: |


Aung Ko

The Burmese Tiger and English Hunter


Acrylic on canvas 182 x 182 cm


Aye Ko

No Money, Hungry, Hard Eating


Single-channel video 11 minutes duration


Htein Lin



Acrylic on canvas 92 x 122 cm


Maung Day

King of Birds


Pen and pencil on paper

75.2 x 55.2 cm


Nge Lay

Endless Story Jogja 8


Colour print on archival matt paper

137.2 x 91.4 cm

Edition 1 of 9


Richie Htet

Male Undressing His Sarong


Acrylic on card (240gsm paper) 66 x 50.8 cm


Soe Yu Nwe

Pandemic Universe: Mirrored Fragmented


Ink, watercolor, color pencil, pastel and silver leaf on paper

27.9 x 27.9 cm


Tun Win Aung & Wah Nu

White Piece 0164: Reading and Writing in 1989


Black and white single-channel video, no audio Duration 14 seconds

Edition 2 of 3





Posted in