Htein Lin is one of Burma's most innovative and thought provoking artists. “My life has been very long and different from that of many other artists.” he says with trademark simplicity.
He has painted since childhood and was also a member of many anyeint groups (comedy/drama)at University. In the mid-1990s, he took part in the 1988 pro-democracy movement in Burma and spent four years in exile in India and Northern Burma in camps of the All Burma Students Democratic Front. Here he met and studied art with the well known Mandalay artist Sitt Nyein Aye, before returning to Rangoon to complete his law degree.
In 1998, he was imprisoned by the military junta but Htein Lin bravely continued to make his art behind bars. His six-and-a-half years in a cramped room were not wasted time.
Prison was not an easy place to pursue his calling but he did not let that dissuade him. Brushes, paints and paper were not allowed. At first, he used his fingers to spread dye from the prison factory over empty food packets. Gradually, however, he discovered that the lungyis (sarongs) of the prisoners' uniforms made the best canvases, while almost anything, from the lids of toothpaste tubes to the wheels of cigarette lighters could be used as brushes. Sometimes, he carved stencils out of bars of soap; on others, he applied his improvised paints with a syringe. His fellow prisoners kept an eye out for guards while he painted. In exchange, he put on "exhibitions" for them in his cell block, or painted scenes they requested. He hid his work in his bedroll and bribed friendly guards to smuggle it out. Once, a guard mistook a series of abstract paintings as blueprints for an escape attempt and destroyed them. Many of his paintings show snapshots of prison life: convicts crouched in subservient squats for inspections, or curled morosely in tiny cells.
He is now based in London and one of his paintings displayed on the website depicts his reaction to the city. He has had several solo and group shows the latest of which was "Burma - Inside Out" an exhibition of his prison paintings at the Asia House, London.
1996 ‘The Little Worm in the Ear’ 1st Solo Show (Lawkanat Art Gallery, Yangon)
1997 ‘31st’ 2nd Solo Show (Myo Kyaw Art Gallery, Yangon)
2005 ‘00235’ 3rd solo show (35/B Art Studio, Yangon)
A one-day exhibition of paintings completed while a political prisoner in Mandalay and Myaungmya Jails, 1998-2004, on cotton cloth using a variety of media and techniques. 00235 was the prisoner number given to Htein Lin by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
2005 ‘Recycled’ 4th solo show, Lawkanat gallery, Yangon
2006 ‘Come Rain or Shine’ 5th solo show, River Gallery, Strand Hotel, Yangon
2007 ' Burma - Inside Out' Asia House, London