Richie Nath Myanmar gay artist
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March 28, 2022
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Southeast Asian mythology and queer eroticism: the work of Richie Nath

In the vibrant depictions of Richie Nath, vigorous goddesses meet seductive men. Switching patriarchal roles and reinventing the historical gaze, Richie Nath creates a world of communion between his queerness and cultural heritage.

Born in 1995 in Myanmar, Richie Nath, also known as Richie Htet, grew up feeling like an outsider. Half-Burmese half-Indian, his darker skin tone, and his femininity were sources of marginalization. Feeling stifled in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, he left for London at 16, encouraged throughout his education by his parents. His family preferred international relations over art, despite young Richie Nath's interest in it, he opted for a more professionalizing path. He obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Illustration at the London College of Fashion and returned to Myanmar after graduation. There, he worked as a stylist and an art director in a women's fashion magazine but soon discovered he preferred practicing art alone.

Following his conversations with Nathalie Johnston, owner curator of "Myanm/art", Richie Nath began to draw and paint his own things. Sometime later, he participated in his first exhibition “I'm Not Trying To Seduce You” at Myanm/art, followed in 2020 by his first solo exhibition and the first queer art exhibition in Myanmar, "A Chauk". Similar to queer, chauk means strange in Burmese and is used as an insult against feminine men. Despite the fear of police repression, the exhibit was a success in the booming art scene of Myanmar before the coup. 

Richie Nath’s illustrations put the body at the center, with eroticism at their core. Oil, gouache, or ink delimit the figures of gods and men, never shying away from nudity. With his background in fashion, his characters' attires are always of taste and intricate details, with a gorgeous variety of fabrics and colors. Richie Nath draws inspiration from Southeast Asian and western myths, as well as pop artists from the 50-60s such as David Hockney. Indian and South Asian cultures are rich in queer characters, with depictions of transwomen and more fluid gender norms. Richie Nath portrays women in positions of power and men as objects of desire, an irresistible switch. 

After the military coup in Myanmar, Richie Nath moved to Paris where he is currently doing a residency for six months. Most of the artists had to leave the country, as many were arrested and tortured. His brother is currently in prison, and his mother was arrested. Facing the gravity and urgency of the situation, Richie Nath started to create more blatantly political illustrations. Bitch Better have my Democracy, one of his recent works, portrays the goddess Durga killing the demon Manisura, a personification of the armed forces of Myanmar. Published right after the coup in February 2021, the powerful image is a risk Richie Nath is willing to take. 

Scroll down below to discover Richie Nath’s art, and support his work by following him on his social media!

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