- About the Cover
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Cover: Ba Khine (b. 1960–), Living In Harmony, 2013. Acrylic on canvas. 36" x 36" in Burma Art Collection at Northern Illinois University BC2019.03.23. Gift from the Thukhuma Collection.
Photo: Creative Services, Northern Illinois University
The cover of this volume highlights the work of the Burmese artist Ba Khine. He was born in 1960 in the busy town of Meiktila, an important trading hub in Central Burma. As conveyed by the title of the painting, "Living in Harmony" illustrates a peaceful scene along the Irrawaddy riverbank: women draw water from the communal well, bullocks pull carts in the rice fields, and country boats and commercial watercraft ply their routes; activities which are still seen today. On the far horizon among the blue hills are small white pagodas erected toward merit-making for the dead.
The calming chosen colors and the horizontal lines express the pleasantries of traditional life in rural areas, a form of life which is at risk of disappearing. The verticality of the palm trees complements the horizontality of a traditional landscape with a palette evoking the stages of paddy field cultivation.
Before turning to painting traditional scenery in a semi-abstract style, Ba Khine worked for twenty years as a professional photographer, which underlies his skills in composition and coloration.
As with many Burmese artists of his generation, until only a decade ago, Ba Khine had little exposure to the art world outside his country and so was inspired by the Mandalay School and their cubist pictorial approach: especially, as he said, by Paw Oo Thet (1936–1993), who was himself part of a movement initiated by Kin Maung Maung (Bank) (1908–1983); and thence followed by other important Mandalay artists such as Win Pe (1936–) and Paw Thame (1947–).
My own interpretation of Ba Khine and the Mandalay cubists was informed by Yin Ker's article "Questions on the Emergence of Modern Myanmar Art: Kin Maung (Bank) (1908–1983) and Bagyi Aung Soe (1924–1990)," noting "the cubist inspiration is meticulously composed. The forms are structured and inscribed within clear demarcations."
Ba Khine is today well known as an active member of the Yangon art scene affiliated to Studio Square Gallery. I first interviewed him in June 2016, in Yangon prior to exhibiting this painting at NIU in 2016, as a part of the Thukhuma collection. Subsequently "Living in Harmony" was donated to the Burma Art Collection in 2019 by professor Ian Holliday, owner of the ThukhumaCollection. [End Page i]