Salcedo Stories

U Lun Gywe: A Living Burmese Master

U Lun Gywe: A Living Burmese Master

  • 16 November 2021

At the age of 91, U Lun Gywe is widely regarded as the greatest living and most respected impressionist Burmese artist.

Having made significant waves in his motherland, as well as exhibitions in major museums and galleries in the United States, Japan, Korea, China, Australia, Singapore and Myanmar, the works of the Burmese master go under the hammer in the Philippines for the first time through the country’s premier auction house.

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U LUN GYWE, Untitled (Flowers), 1998, Oil on canvas

U Lun Gywe started his career at the age of 17 as an apprentice to a number of local artists. He learned to paint in order to make a living for himself and his mother by producing posters and signboards. His formal education in the arts was one supplemented by the mentorship of Myanmar’s greatest masters of arts and culture. His art teachers played important and instrumental roles in the young painter’s life, and he has often expressed admiration for and gratitude towards them.

His domestic success granted him opportunities to do as so many great artists before him had done and travel to experience what the bustling art scenes across the seas were like and learn from them. In 1962, Lun Gywe was sent on a cultural exchange program to the Oriental Art Institute of Beijing. He attributes finding his style of masterly blending colours complimented by a high degree of dynamism from the swift and accurate brush strokes in paintings that he observed were popular in the region at the time.

U LUN GYWE, Untitled (Tree), 1998, Oil on canvas

Years later another opportunity for cultural exchange was presented to Lun Gywe, but instead of focusing on his practice as an artist, he would shift towards a parallel field, art preservation. It was during that time that he was given the opportunity to work with a myriad of Impressionist paintings by different artists, timelines, and regions of the world. He held in his hands the works of the Western masters who came before him, and was able to study their individual strokes and divergent aspects and characteristics intimately. Although this only lasted for a year, the level of familiarity granted to Lun Gywe was much more in-depth than that of someone who could only visit these works in museums.

Upon his return home, Lun Gywe devoted himself to his practice as an artist and as an educator of the arts. He has been the teacher and mentor of numerous younger artists who have later gained recognition on their own terms.

U LUN GYWE, Untitled (Pink Roses), 1998, Oil on canvas

Lun Gywe carefully observes his environment and surroundings and records them in his mind. He says: “When I was walking on the beach, I could sense a beautiful and rhythmic composition and a sense of colours. After absorbing these impressions and returning to my studio, I reminded myself of what the feeling was like on the beach. As soon as I recalled the mood and inspiration, I painted rapidly with swift brush strokes to record what I could remember from my visit…” In his masterpieces, he celebrates the joy and harmony in interpreting the beauty of his native land and its people.

U Lun Gywe writes on his website: “Most of the paintings are from my mind and heart without any references. I am happy that my efforts result in such a great legacy and I couldn’t be happier to become an artist. I love Art. I love paintings. I love all of you.”

The works featured in this article will be offered at Salcedo Auctions‘ yearend sale ‘Under the Tree: The Wish List, ’ which takes place live & online on Saturday, 27 November 2021 at 2PM. You can view the full catalogue and register to bid here.