Rangoon Artist Sandar Khaing Paints the Naked Truth
Fat is beautiful—so says Rangoon artist Sandar Khaing, and to support that unconventional viewpoint she peoples her canvases with seriously overweight nudes. Sandar Khaing studied under prominent and experienced artists like Pe Nyunt Wai and Win Pe Myint, but now she has struck out on her own very individual path, giving the term “heavyweight” a new and aesthetic meaning.
Question: Tell us how you came to paint nudes.
Answer: I started to paint in 1996 by hiring models. At that time, models were slim. I painted together with my teachers. Then I started to be interested in my elder sister’s fatness and asked her to be my model. At first, she refused. Then she agreed. Since then, I have drawn fat people. I have about 60 paintings. Now I can make an exhibition here. All are painted with acrylic paint.
I started to paint with Nay Myo Say (one of Burma’s best known Burmese artists) by hiring a model once a week. Sometimes the model disappeared, I couldn’t find her and then I couldn’t paint.
When my elder sister came home from school, she used to be so tired and she would undress and rest. I asked her to model for me because I had nobody. I could only think about painting nudes, I wasn’t interested in any other kind of painting.
Even standing at a bus stop, I saw people in this way. I undressed people in my imagination. I didn’t care whether the person was beautiful or not. I imagined it would be very nice to paint pictures of them, observing their body structure. I painted in my imagination. I observed everybody I came across—fat people, too.
It was very convenient for me when my sister became my model. I showed my portraits of her to my teacher, she liked them, said I was lucky to have such a model and encouraged me to continue. My sister still poses as a model for me. I don’t let my mother know about it. My mother doesn’t accept my work as paintings. And there are some difficulties about it inside the country.
Q: What feelings do you want to evoke with these paintings of plump, chubby and obese nude women?
A: I want to say that not only slim people but also fat people are beautiful. Fat women exhibit many more lines, and we can see beauty in these lines. There are double or triple stomachs, many ‘steps’ [of flesh] on their backs and their thighs, too. They are beautiful lines.
Q: Your exhibition also includes seven male nudes. What distinction do you make between male and female nudes?
A: The same. I feel the same. I just want to present lines, the beauty of lines.
Q: Have you exhibited in Burma?
A: Yes, at the French embassy about seven months ago. I sold six, to foreigners. I brought to Thailand about 40 paintings that I showed there. Small ones. It is not easy to exhibit these paintings, apart from in embassies. Even at home, I have to cover them up, otherwise my mother would scold me.
There are many artists who paint nudes in Burma. But they also have problems showing their work. I have about 25 large paintings, about 4ft by 5ft in Rangoon, which are difficult to exhibit because of their size.