I first met Sonny Nyein after a lecture at the American Cultural Center in Yangon in the winter of 2006. At the time, Myanmar’s military government was cracking down on activists, including artists. Media officer and former movie star, Grace Swe Zin Htaik, was there and introduced me to Sonny and other prominent Burmese artists—among them, Aung Myint, San Minn and Tin Win.
In 2007, Sonny’s work was featured in an exhibition at Beikthano Gallery. In the accompanying brochure, curator and gallery owner, Tin Win wrote: “ Sonny Nyein, the only sculptor represented here, is the only modern sculptor of his time. His earlier works are based on found objects but his works in this exhibit are of steel, constructed not only as a form but to display space as well as negative space.” As Sonny put it at the time: “One needs absolute purity and absolute freedom in art,“ words consistently reflected in his own oeuvre.
In 2017, my colleague Mie Preckler and I returned to Myanmar to curate a show tracing the changes in art over the last decade. Sonny was a big part of that exhibition and workshop series, sharing – as always – his knowledge, ideas and aesthetic, and heart. Sonny Nyein was an exceptional artist and colleague, and a dear friend.
Pamela Blotner and Mie Preckler