GURGAON: “I believe colour can tell everything about a human being’s feelings and thoughts,” says the renowned Burmese artist, Zaw Win Pe. And the colours in his naturalistic landscapes, 21 of which are being exhibited for the first time in the country, are as far from nature’s idyll as can be. His abstract canvases depict the skies an oppressive shade of purple, the fields a burning array of oranges and browns, and the trees a charcoal black.There are a thousand interpretations Win Pe’s works lend themselves to. But for him art doesn’t necessarily have to be representational, it can also be purely emotional. “These works represent my feelings at the moment I made them,” he says, at his preview exhibition in Gurgaon’s DLF Golf and Country Club. Win Pe is one of the first artists to ever exhibit his works in India, and will be showcasing his pieces in Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, and Chennai in the coming days. All his landscapes are influenced by his visits to the North Eastern state of Shan. “I used to go to these places, which moved me. I would take a picture, and go back to my studios, and start painting,” he says. And the painting wouldn’t resemble anything that he had seen in Shan, but would be an amalgam of reality and imagination. Before this, Win Pe has held similar exhibitions in countries like Thailand, Singapore, and Hong Kong, and wishes to share his works of ‘transformed landscape’ with a wider international audience. But being an artist in Burma has never been easy, and Win Pe, who was born in 1960, two years before the junta took over, knows it well. “In the 70s till the 80s, any one-man shows were not allowed in the country,” he says.

An individual artist wasn’t allowed to perform, or even take the podium, as an assertion of collective might over individual grandeur. “But all that is history. Today, the arts are very independent,” he adds. But censorship laws, if not iron-fisted, are still present in less conspicuous forms. “Artists still have to be careful in their choice of subject. The censorship board still reviews all exhibitions in the country,” says Gill Pattison, a representative of the Calcutta Arts Club, one of the organizers of the exhibition, in Burma. Abhishek Basu, who is the director of Calcutta Arts Club, says that this is just the right time for a cultural exchange between India and Burma. “Myanmar has been a closed country for many years. And only recently, it has begun to open up to different countries. Bilateral talks between India and Myanmar have begun for the first time, and so art should also cross the barriers,” he says.