Aung Aung Taik

Aung Aung Taik: The Edifice of Impermanence

When: Fri., Feb. 20 – Sun., May 3, 2009
Where:  Jacquelin Pilar Contemporary Gallery
Conversation with the Artist:
Fri., Feb. 20, 5:00 pm


Born in Rangoon, Burma in 1948, the Burmese artist Aung Aung Taik received the traditional education of his class. Following boarding school he decided not to follow in his father’s footsteps through medical school but rather chose to study painting. He attended the State Academy of Art in Rangoon and also studied privately with two of Burma’s leading artists, U Ba Kyi and U Ngwe Gaing. Fortunate to be mentored by the Burmese writers Ludu U Hia and Daw Ahmar, Aung was invited to accompany them on a number of anthropological expeditions into the remote regions of Burma. Later Aung Aung Taik would illustrate a series of books published by Ludu U Hia. Successful exhibitions of his work in both Burma and Japan followed. Seeking greater artistic autonomy and dissatisfied with the stagnation of the fine arts of his country, Aung Aung Taik immigrated to the United States in 1972 where he continued his studies at the San Francisco Art Institute. A series of exhibitions led to his first solo exhibition at the Mission Cultural Center in 1981, where the now deceased San Francisco Chronicle art critic Tom Albright wrote that Aung Aung’s paintings “… suggest some of the strange stage sets of Francis Bacon carried to a greater
degree of abstraction

The diversity of cultural life in the San Francisco of the 80s led to Aung’s mastery of the English language and the desire to express his widening understanding in poetry and prose. Visions of Schwedagon (1989), an autobiographical novel followed, and with it a renewed interest in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism native to his homeland. Aung Aung completed a series of sculptural representation of the Buddha and completed an essay, “A View from the Lower Life” (1992). The following year, in a further celebration of the rich traditions of his homeland, he published a cookbook, Under the Golden Pagoda (Chronicle Books, 1993), extolling the extraordinary range of the cuisine of Burma. Aung Aung Taik became an American citizen in 1994 and finally, after 30 years in America, returned to his homeland for a solo exhibition as one of the pioneer modern artists of Burma. A member of the New Zero Art Group, he now visits Burma annually to exhibit his work in both Rangoon and Mandalay and for the purpose of giving workshops and forums dedicated to modern art.

Fascinated by the act of dissection, Aung Aung Taik’s mixed media works are the result of a deep curiosity regarding the study and comprehension of the source of life and the death that follows. It is interesting to note that these unusual sculptural mixed-media works are composed of once functioning components whose original purposes have become moribund. In taking the objects apart to see their inner workings, Aung found that each piece was linked to each other by what he terms “logical relativity.” Each constituent piece is unique in form and intent and is unlike what is seen in the outside world. By giving each part a new life and form, the parts have been put back together differently but without pragmatic purpose – and curiously, for the stimulation of conjectural imagery. To Aung’s mind, these works “new life” and purpose will also end just as their “first life” had done – he has presented a so-called “precept of impermanence.” Viewed by the artist as the means to understand the very nature of cause and effect, Aung sees his work as his unique and peculiar inquiry into daily life. In summation, he believes “that it is far better to be clear about one’s confusions than confused about one’s own confusions.” For him “it is obvious that things exist temporarily within their own nature and contrarily we labor to build that nature into an edifice of permanence.”

Jacquelin Pilar, Curator
February 2009