Dr.Martin Stather
Manager of the Mannheim Art-Association


(Translation by Elisa Kohl-Garrity)

Otgonbayar Ershuu
Inauguration Zimmermann Gallery, 3/28/2014

Even though Mongolia’s territory is around four times larger than that of the Federal Republic of Germany it features no more than 3.18 million inhabitants. Mongolia is barely existent in our conception of the world; this is almost inconceivable. Around 40% of the inhabitants live in the capital Ulan Bator (Ulaanbaatar) – the rest resides in silence. This kind of heavenly solitude is unimaginable. Maybe particularly because Mongolia does not play a leading role in world politics we should focus our attention on this country.

Mongolia also has a lot to offer historically: Under Chinggis Khan, Mongolia used to be the largest territorially united empire in history. From around 1600 in the early modern age, Mongolia became a center of Buddhist art drawing on Indo-Tibetan artistic traditions. The characteristic features of this art – and this brings us to OtGO as the artist calls himself – are the Thangka, scrolls embellishing monasteries, which encompass the depiction of animals. These depictions stand in contrast to the remainder of Buddhist art.  

OtGO is the most important contemporary painter of present-day Mongolia. His works enchant the onlooker through the unique ease and freshness it exudes. We encounter humans and animals, which fill the often wide spaces of his paintings in small formatted roundelay. It is always difficult to assess and appreciate the art of a foreign culture, particularly when we have no knowledge of its tradition. Hence, we inevitably contemplate this art with eyes, which have been laden with our own culture and thereby overlook or perceive things differently. Beholding picture of the holy family, an onlooker unfamiliar with Christian culture will only perceive a family. We will have to live with this inherent limitation.  

Roughly said, the pictorial ground features two layers at first glance. I say “roughly said” because the layer of painting itself is composed of many layers or foils accompanied by figuration, which demarcates itself from the pictorial ground through a clear contour. The coloring often consists of only two or three colors, which, however, appear in different shades. This often creates an impression of (false) monochromy, calming the surface which has been dynamized by the traces of running paint.    

The streams of paint produce a strong visual maelstrom, which directly correlates with the figuration. Humans, women and men are depicted in paradisiacal nudity. In this way they are removed from time and no relation is sought to a certain era. The animal world is manifold – we predominately see horses, but there is also a bustle of ducks, herons, fish, wolves, pelicans, deer and so on. Diverging directions within the picture create a dynamic and liveliness one can hardly withdraw from.      

We see, for once, the streams of paint, the often dance-like movements of humans and animals. Humans and animals are always depicted in relation to one another, and react to each other; hence a roundelay is created, reminiscent of a swirl which pulls the onlooker into it. The colors are kept in strong, light tints, frequently transitioning between two or three colors that is, red/yellow, orange/yellow, green/blue and green/pink. The title of the exhibition “red and blue” takes recourse to this scheme.  In some of his slightly older pictures, we see plants joining the figuration of animal/human; these flowers and grasses intensify the overall ornamental impression of the scene.

An almost impenetrable web presents itself on canvas; thickets of figuration and pictorial space, which invite the onlooker to study the painting in detail. The eye can hardly capture all which may be discovered and ever new scenes guide the eye across the canvas.

After having studied painting, OtGO entered into an extensive period of self-study, acquiring knowledge of traditional painting techniques and Mongolian iconographic miniature painting, which then led him to transform this tradition into his very own, contemporary adaptation. The artist described the meditative act of painting Thangkas, in which a depiction of a divinity is completed in one stroke as follows:
“Thangka painting means that the mind is painting, not the hands – like meditation it bestows new strength and energy.”

The movement of the picture, which flows from the mind into the painting hand, is in the end the ever-lasting movement of life itself, but also the deliverance from a material world onto the path of a spiritual world.

Living in Berlin since 2005, the Mongolian artist’s creations may rightfully be considered world-art, encompassing all cultures.

Not only has he led the artwork of his Mongolian home-country into the present consistently and has become a cultural ambassador of his people to the world, but he also embodies a young, global generation which respects regional traditions and operates internationally. He blends western and eastern traditions together in a very careful and well-received manner and thereby creates a type of art which has become an integral part of globalization. 




Mongolian Art