by Elisa Kohl-Garrity)
Inauguration Zimmermann Gallery, 3/28/2014
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
joining the figuration of animal/human; these flowers and grasses
intensify the overall ornamental impression of the scene.
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.
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:
painting means that the mind is painting, not the hands – like
meditation it bestows new strength and energy.”
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
in Berlin since 2005, the Mongolian artist’s creations may rightfully
be considered world-art, encompassing all cultures.
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.