Zwe Yan Naing was born in 1984 and raised in a village 50 miles away from Ngapali beach in Rakhine State. He spent his childhood drawing the shadows of people sunbathing on Ngapali beach using a stick. This recreational activity soon blossomed into a passion. Zwe’s interest in artistic interpretations and depictions gradually grew from day to day. At the age of twenty-one, he left his native town and moved to Yangon to expand his horizon. He joined and studied State School of Fine Arts Yangon in 2006 and graduated in 2009. During his school years, he worked as a caricature painter for a living. Finally, he decided to turn his passion for art into a profession in 2010. There is no looking back since then.
A few things crossed Zwe Yan Naing’s mind before inking his first painting. Finally, Zwe discovered a character called the Myanmar Lady for the series of his artistic life. The Myanmar Lady represents the Myanmar opposition leader of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of Myanmar’s independence hero General Aung San. The artist depicted the Lady with different ways under strict state censorship of former military regime. The first painting of the series is the lady wearing an old Myanmar flag longyi in the background of new Myanmar flag. It was printed in a media and many local people criticized about his first Lady painting. Zwe’s first solo exhibition called the Myanmar Lady was banned by the draconian censorship for three times. In late 2009, his solo exhibitions were barred.
Zwe Yan Naing brought a newly art genre called “money collage art”, an art form which depicts the portrait of famous public figures of the past and the present using bank notes, in his solo exhibition.
Moreover, Zwe Yan Naing is also a portrait painter and his portraiture is evolved as a form of representation with the introspection encouraged by humanism. Most of his portraits are early iconic people including General Aung San, former UN Secretary U Thant and Myanmar’s incumbent President U Htin Kyaw, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the late influential politician Hantharwady U Win Tin. Zwe enjoys cubism art by using geometric shapes to define objects. Now he is experimenting a new painting style with aquarelle technique involving oil color.
The main concept behind his artwork is based on three principles which reflect his self-image on the paintings. The first is not to forget the past; the second is to become aware of existing situation and the last is to build up the future. He creates paintings to represent everyone as dutiful citizens so his activist paintings address socio-political issues, encourage community and public participation as a means of bringing about social change. Zwe’s second solo exhibition is a follow-up of his money collage artworks and is titled “To Value Something”. Zwe Yan Naing produces artworks with different mediums, but oil tends to be his most preferred medium for painting.