Essays & Media

Bringing paintings to life with augmented reality art (AR.T)

Bringing paintings to life with augmented reality art (AR.T)
16 Feb 2024

Bringing paintings to life with augmented reality art (AR.T)

The SMU Art Collection has over 70 paintings from Myanmar donated by Ian Holliday. A specialist in Burmese politics, Holliday assembled the Thukhuma Collection which comprises of Burmese paintings largely dating from the transitional decade of the 2010s, presenting multiple artistic perspectives on a society in reform. On display at School of Social Sciences and Li Ka Shing Library, the gifted paintings depict the people, culture and land, from the streets of Yangon and rural peripheries to political icons and indigenous deities.
SMU Libraries, in collaboration with The MeshMinds Foundation, brings three paintings by artists Min Zaw, Soe Naing and Zwe Mon to life using augmented reality art (AR.T), innovating new ways to immerse in Burmese culture for the exhibition Altered States: Painting Myanmar in a Time of Transition at de Suantio Gallery in 2023. 

The artworks are now on display at art@level4, Li Ka Shing Library.

Min Zaw

Ordinary People 

About Min Zaw
Min Zaw (b. 1972, Yangon) graduated from Yangon's State School of Fine Arts in 1994, and the University of Culture in Yangon in 1998. He was a finalist in the 2002 ASEAN Art Award when it was first extended to include entries from Myanmar, and a founding member of the Collective Studio Square which was established in Yangon in 2003. He has exhibited regularly in Singapore since 2000.

About Ordinary People AR 
Min Zaw’s use of soft paper-thin outlines, simple basic colours, and flat paint draw inspiration from traditional Myanmar art. Ordinary People (2013) has an unpretentious simplicity that makes the image immediately beguiling. On closer look, it begins to intrigue. So similar are the figures in features, stance and attire that little distinguishes one from another. The men’s unidirectional stares evoke the disciplinary gaze. Yet they are ordinary people, and each is an everyday man—but they have lost their individuality and identity, along with their dreams and aspirations. 

Through the AR Effects, empathise with their loss. Make the painting come to life and see how the men follow your gaze, as though surveilling you.

Scan to access Min Zaw Face Effect

Scan to access Min Zaw Target Tracker

Soe Naing 


About Soe Naing
In an arena dominated by figurative paintings, Soe Naing is the rare artist in Myanmar art scene working in abstract expressionism. The artist has worked in this stylistic vein since the late 1990s. One of the country's most well-travelled artists, Soe Naing was part of a Southeast Asian contemporary art exhibition organised by Singapore Art Museum that travelled to Europe and Japan between the late 1990s and early 2000s. In 2014, he was a special feature artist in Art Stage Singapore's Southeast Asian Platform.

About Dance AR 
Dance (2011) captures the freedom of his chosen art style. He gravitated towards it as a means of breaking free from a repressive art education with a regimented syllabus focussed on the drawing of representational forms. In this painting, he starts by drawing lines of a figure dancing, and then adding colours with broad brushstrokes.

Through the AR Target Tracker, witness Soe Naing’s creative process in reverse, revealing a figure in dance. Try out the AR Face Effect to find yourself in an abstract painting, and snap a photo or video to share with your friends.

Scan to access Soe Naing Face Effect

Scan to access Soe Naing Target Tracker

Zwe Mon


About Zwe Mon
Zwe Mon’s (b. 1990, Yangon) paintings are characterised by an experimentation with textures. She contrasts or harmonises the treatment of the paint with the subject of her paintings, which often touches on social and political issues. In her signature series of portraitures, the female figure, representing both the artist and Burmese women, is consistently repeated in pose, gesture and traditional attire. Zwe Mon then introduces different symbolic elements projecting psychological states and social commentaries. 

About Untitled AR 
In this portrait, the artist reclaimed traditional symbols, sending an empowering message of women in Myanmar. Zwe Mon has painted the woman a halo, challenging prevailing beliefs that women cannot achieve enlightenment. Similarly, she painted a mole under the eye, commonly believed to bring bad luck, to represent a woman in control of her fate.

Try out the Target Tracker to learn about the symbolic elements in the painting, and explore the Face Effect to transform yourself with the thick, bold strokes characteristic of this series of portraits.

Scan to access Zwe Mon Face Effect

Scan to access Zwe Mon Target Tracker