Specializing in Thai & Asian Contemporary Art


H Gallery Bangkok is very pleased to announce the first major solo exhibition in Thailand of works by Shan-Exile artist, Sawangwongse Yawnghwe. Working out of Chiang Mai since 2017, his paintings possess rough-hewn surfaces where contrasts of images and text claim fractious relations of history and memory.

The Bullet School Canvases are an extensive series of site specific, large-scale installation based paintings created for H Gallery Bangkok.  The scale of the installation and multiple perspectives heighten the drama of the subject-matter.

Yawnghwe’s biography is marked by violent episodes in the recent histories of Southeast Asia. His surname comes from the name of the Shan state where his grandfather once ruled as Saopha, a hereditary royal title meaning Lord of the Sky. The grandfather, Sao Shwe Thaike, was the first President of Burma following independence from the British Empire in 1948. He was arrested during the infamous military takeover led by General Ne Win in 1962 and subsequently died in prison. Yawnghwe was born in a Shan State Army (SSA) camp in Shan State, Burma. However, he was initially raised in Thailand before his family fled as exiles to Canada after a spate of assassinations of people connected to the SSA. The fraught assembling of identity subsequent to personal and collective losses is an urgent theme of his practice.

Many of Yawnghwe’s paintings are based on the flag-like structure of color-field grounds, and the preponderance of green is symbolic of both Shan State and Burma/Myanmar, symbolizing agricultural abundance and peace. Across these grounds, carefully rendered media images, personal memorabilia, graffito and abstracted signs seemingly float or hang haphazardly. Acronyms for rogue armies abut images of military hardware, glamourized depictions of politicians and figures wearing modern and traditional garb. Most recently, Yawnghwe has produced lush paintings of landscapes that are less suggestive of the passing of time on conflicted geographies, or prelapsarian romanticism, than how violent histories can become lost.

The rough and jumbled appearances in Bullet School shape a crisscrossing of vectors of remembrance; a skewing of the official terms by which some narratives and myths come to represent history and others don’t. Graffiti and the graffito can serve the voices of those written out of official histories, fragile lines and barely legible sentiments are a testament to social erasure. The flag-like forms of Yawnghwe’s paintings are not just a proud conduit for vested interests but now also a means of counter expression.

A few years ago Myanmar was officially listed as only one of two longstanding military regimes “left” in the world. This statistic is now all but universally irrelevant as we witness the consistent rise and pervasiveness of authoritarian rule and values. Myanmar is currently led by the National League for Democracy—elected in 2015—as well as the military, whose powers remain enshrined in the constitution they drafted in 2008. Regular news of violence serve as a reminder that seven decades of civil war have yet to come to an end.

Yawnghwe has said that modernity will only be achieved for his “country” when there is a collective reckoning with deep-rooted problems and an indictment of those who perpetuate them.

Sawangwongse Yawnghwe is based between Zutphen in the Netherlands and Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. He graduated from Emily Carr and Concordia Universities in Canada. His exhibitions include Imagined Borders - The 12th Gwangju Biennale (2018), Korea; The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT9/2018), Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane Australia; Diaspora: Exit, Exile and Exodus of Southeast Asia (2018), MAIIAM, Chiang Mai; Trade Markings (Frontier Imaginaries, Ed. 5) (2018), Van Abbemuseum, Einhdhoven; Dhaka Art Summit (2018), Dhaka; Narcissism & Social Interaction, Clark House Initiative, Bombay; The Jerusalem Show VIII Before and After Origins (2016), Al Ma'mal Foundation/Shu'fat Refugee Camp/Qalandiya International, Jerusalem; Kamarado (2015), Stedelijk Museum Bureau, Amsterdam; and Exit (2002), Fondazione Sandretto Rebaudengo, Turin. Yawnghwe has held artist residencies in Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Jerusalem, and Florence.


An installation of paintings and site specific works by Sawangwongse Yawnghwe
September 1, 2018 – January 27, 2019
(In process during the month of August at H GALLERY BANGKOK)