Life and Art of Aung Si Thu Hlaing

The distinctive combination of realism and stylized designs inspired by traditions of Myanmar and Japan. Aung Si Thu Hlaing is exploring his unique and refined painting styles in his oil and watercolor. The artist is also in the responsible position to care of the next generation of Myanmar artists as the headmaster of the State High School of Fine Arts in Yangon since 2008. He used to study in the National University of Art and Culture and then in the Tokyo Gakugei University in Japan, where he learnt alien art concepts and techniques to adapt in his own tradition and trials.  


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Aung Si Thu Hlaing with his paintings at the exhibition hall in the State School of Fine Art, Yangon


Art and Challenge

As seeing the series of paintings hung in the hall of the State High School of Fine Art in Yangon (a.k.a. SSFA), Aung Si Thu Hlaing is prolific fine art artist who loves to paint portraits trying to extract people’s emotion, lives and nature on their faces. 

Aung Si Thu Hlaing recalls when he studied in the Tokyo Gakugei University, there were two most influential and respected Japanese teachers, whose focuses were totally opposite each other. One intended to teach realism to capture truth of nature, while the other loved abstract way of expression. Since then, it has become Aung Si Thu Hlaing’s fundamental challenge to integrate those two opposite concepts into his self-expression.

 

Art Education and Training 

Aung Si Thu Hlaing was born in 1978 in Tamwe Township in Yangon. Ever since a little child, he loved to draw and paint more than anything.

When he passed matriculation exams in 1995, since most of the universities in Myanmar were still closed since the 1988 uprising, he joined the evening class of SSFA Yangon for two years led by his passion to art. Despite the time was mostly not optimal for young students, Aung Si Thu Hlaing was forwarding to be an artist step by step. He remembered the day that his father brought him to his close friend as a turning point. When the first year of SSFA passed, his father and Aung Si Thu Hlaing visited U Kyaw Thaung, who was a famous illustrator as well as artist. The artist suggested him to apply the National University of Art and Culture (a.k.a. University of Culture), which was newly established in 1993. As his advice, Aung Si Thu Hlaing started attending the University of Culture since 1996.  Generally speaking, the University of Culture provided more theory in lectures, while the SSFA focuses on practical techniques. So he could cover both theory and techniques in two institutes. At the same time, Aung Si Thu Hlaing also started working for U Kyaw Thaung’s studio and gallery, called “White Line”, while he had chance to study more practical and lively art techniques under the artist.

As soon as obtaining the Bachelor of Art in Painting in December 2000, Aung Si Thu Hlaing directly started his professional career as a tutor of the University of Culture in Mandalay, which was newly established in March 2001. Aung Si Thu Hlaing was one of the seven first-teachers of the university. As of 2013, about 25 teachers are working there. Annually 25 to 30 students enrolled in each University of Culture in Yangon and Mandalay, respectively. 

 

Studied Art Education in Japan

From 2005 to 2008 for three years, the Myanmar Government sent Aung Si Thu Hlaing Japan to study art education in the Tokyo Gakugei University financed by the Ministry of Education in Japan. He initially enrolled as a research student and later proceeded to the master course of art education. All the lectures were provided in Japanese but he could manage to follow the lessons. He was simply surprised that there were so many subjects and theories to learn in art education, which he had no idea before he started studying. When he learnt Japanese traditional painting during one year, he was especially inspired by block print techniques and artworks, which he never saw in his country. The influence of the block print sometimes appears in his recent paintings such as in the background of portraits. He did not miss the chances to visit various places in Japan and apparently enjoyed the variety of tasty Japanese food, too.

 

Career in the Art Education

Aung Si Thu Hlaing came back to Myanmar in 2008 and was accordingly assigned in the position of the headmaster of the SSFA in Yangon. In the very same year, he married to the female artist, Khin New Ni Lay Win. Since the assignment, he had dealt with challenges in management and maintenance of the school with his colleagues. He sincerely appreciated that many graduate artists and related galleries continuously intend to support the school and its students. 

He has a son and a daughter with his artist wife, Khin New Ni Lay Win, who used to study with him in the University of Culture in Yangon. She is working as an assistant lecture in the department of fine art (painting) in their old university. In 2014, Aung Si Thu Hlaing resigned from SSFA to be a full-time artist to focus on his artist career. He keeps providing private lessons to local art students as well as foreign art learners in both English and Japanese. 

 

 

(Interviewed on 17 August 2013 by Pirica Art Centre, 
Updated in Feb 2015)

 

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