Aung Khaing was born in 1945, in Dah Bein village on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Rangoon, Burma). He was interested in art from a very early stage and started studying it at the age of 11. His particular style and form of art did not receive any praise from his art teachers who preferred a much more traditional style and were dubbed “deformed”. Despite harsh criticism, the young Aung Khaing pursued his passion and continued learning art.

 

In the 1960s while he was a university student, one of his friends asked him to draw a portrait mural of Thakin Kodaw Hmaing (who is considered one of the greatest Burmese poets, writers and political leaders in the 20th century history of Burma) on the wall of Thahton student’s hall in the Rangoon University. When the student leaders of the annual university magazine committee saw the sketch, they asked him to draw illustrations for their magazine, which he later become in charge of. On his quest to learn modern art, he drew inspiration from famous modern artists of the time, such as Bagyi Aung Soe and Khin Maung Yin, and sought mentorship from Paw Oo Thet for who had an unorthodox method of teaching than his old art teachers, but his work was mostly overlooked by the art community. Back then modern art was not very popular and Aung Khaing has not found his style yet. One day, another one of his inspirations Swe Aung Thame said to him “You can’t learn modern art, you have to start painting it. It’s like climbing a ladder and jumping off” - a quote that changed Aung Khaing’s view on his approach forever and something he still holds dear to his heart until today. It inspired and helped him regain the confidence that he had lost long ago.

He started exhibiting his work in about 26 group exhibitions throughout the 1970s, and attempted a solo exhibition in 1984 at the Art and Artisan Association in the famous Bogyoke Market but all 120 of his paintings were rejected by the censorship board. He went back to drawing illustration just to get by and has produced over 40,000 sketches, which he took with him to the 10 places that he has moved around. He did not reemerge in the art scene until 2010 and had two successful solo exhibitions in Lokanat (2013) and Pansodan (2014) Galleries respectively. His most successful international exhibitions were “Banned in Burma: Painting Under Censorship” in 2014, and “Burma By Proxy: Art at the Dawn of Democracy” in 2015 at Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre in Hong Kong.