Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes by OTGO 2020–2021 acryl on canvas
Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –1/3
Kingdom of the Apes – 1 by OTGO 312 x 312 cm












I wanna be like you! is singing King Louie in Walt Disney's cartoon “The Jungle Book” (1967). The dancing Monkey King wants to be, go and talk like a human being and negotiate a deal to elicit the secret of the 'red flower', of making a fire, from the boy Mowgli. In return, the eager to learn orangutan offers the human child that it can stay in the jungle. But in the long run man has 'lost' little in the jungle and in the face of numerous dangers and despite his animal family, friends and protectors, he is drawn to the human settlement. The adult viewer may wonder: Does Mowgli's step across the threshold into 'civilization' amount to an initiation rite? Is it some kind of banishment from paradise? Or is the gap between evolution simply opening up here?

Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –1/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 1/3 312 x 312 cm
 
The painter OTGO plays with these questions in the three-part painting series Kingdom of the Apes (1/3 - 3/3, 2020/21, acrylic on canvas, private collections). It is unconventional because this time the wishes of collectors resulted in the extraordinary picture dimensions (312 x 312 and 190 x 160 cm). At the same time, from a formal point of view, these formats, their arrangement and the separate hanging locations do not correspond to the type of image that inherited the winged altar. But it was precisely the context in terms of content and the integrative message to the human species that they forged together in the studio as a three-panel picture, making them a contemporary and unconventional variant of the triptych. In addition, the subject arises from a personal soft spot for monkeys on the part of the artist, which he formed into a next picture idea while working on the swirling stream of life of Infinite 16 (2013-2020, acrylic on canvas 213 x 650 cm). He did not imagine any 'nicely sorted' jungle sections in which the 'naive' would still put their monkeys. Just think of Henri Julien Félix Rousseau's oil paintings, such as “Tropical Forest with Monkeys” (1910)1.
1 Oil on canvas, 129.5 x 159.5 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Another apt example is “The Merry Jesters”, 1906, oil on canvas, 145.7 x 113.3 cm, Philadelphia Museum of Art.



The Studio OTGO: The Kingdom of the Apes –1/3
Studio OTGO: Kingdom of the Apes – 1/3 312 x 312 cm

OTGO's kingdom of the apes gathers the primate family before the eyes of the beholder, as if looking through a kaleidoscope full of bright colors, integrates friend and foe and assigns the genealogical branch to the human figures.

So it is exceptionally good to dare to venture into another cinematic excursion. Because it is not only in Walt Disney's cartoon worlds that a 'monkey dance' in the sense of King Louie' is raging. Regardless of OTGO's image idea, documentaries of the National Geographic Magazine with the same title can also be found under the English title The Kingdom of the Apes. And indeed, they do exist - in the Battle Lines episode, the ape kingdoms are located deep in the rainforests of Rwanda and Tanzania. 'Monkey kings' like Titus, a mighty silverback who has led and protected a large group of gorillas for more than 20 years, live there. Or the chimpanzee brothers Froyd and Frodo, who fight with each other for dynastic rule and have to defeat both rivals and diseases. You can see hierarchies and power structures in the respective 'ape society', which are characterized by violence, intrigue and fraud. The monkeys' ability to bring about decisions and also to demand them from the others seems to be 'political calculation'. This far exceeds everyday activities such as eating vegetarian food or hunting together or rearing the young in both groups. Last but not least, the sensitive, affectionate behavior of the togetherness and the physical closeness are impressive, for example when it comes to saying goodbye to the 'Gorilla King' when he dies. Then it becomes clear once again how closely the primates are related, that is, in particular, how close apes and humans really are.


Back to OTGO's first acrylic painting Kingdom of the Apes (1/3, 2020, 312 x 312 cm). In the detailed recordings of the video on the homepage, the image composition and structure that is characteristic of the artist become clear: the inner frame and the image ground are covered by a 'sea' of dense, ornamental leaf structures in different sizes, mostly in the primary colors red, yellow and blue on black. Numerous layers of paint form the figures using thin, black ink contours and the brightly colored paint. The figures condense, line up, overlap, network and act like organic nerve nodes that grow over the image carrier.

Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –1/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 1/3

This flat figuration, which is related to the cartoon, can be found on all three paintings, just as the application of paint typically alternates glazes and opaque areas, which creates tension on the surface of the picture. OTGOs' signatures made up of a thumbprint and a vertical signature are placed in white between the background of the picture and the 'figure network'.

In the first picture, yellow and blue predominate in various nuances in the color scheme. Red tones and complementary light green create a heterogeneous balance. 'Sprinkles' are then the colors black and white. The human figures fit into the palette via a light incarnate as well as blue and yellow tones.
Central figures in the dense crowd of the picture field are precisely those primates, monkeys and human figures, to which the course of the text will be devoted in detail. Further animal figures can be successively determined: These include other mammals (zebras) and - surprisingly far from any wet element - also cartilaginous fish (rays) and reptiles (crocodile, alligator, turtle). The white and yellow, 'faceless' zebras are a popular motif in OTGO's works, as he particularly values this wild animal because of its inherent indomitable nature. The rays in the primary colors blue, yellow and red, on the other hand, have a structuring function, as they are able to link the layers of paint in the picture with one another.
 

Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –1/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 1/3

This happens through the lines of their extra-long tails and the leaf-shaped bodies, which the viewer thinks of threads and knots in a tapestry. Obviously, the rays also develop an ornamental quality that can be read in the broadest sense of art history as a contemporary reference to the plant ornamentation of Art Nouveau. 
The crocodile, alligator and turtle are not only painted in yellow, but also come under a common taxon, the sauropsids, which (in addition to birds) also include the species of dinosaurs that were extinct in primeval times. In the picture they represent the enemies of the primates, which is realized by the representation of the open crocodile mouth with the threatening teeth.

Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –1/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 1/3

On the other hand, the painter levels out the danger with a wink when he shows that reptile and a green orangutan next to it, with the same facial expressions and feet, anthropomorphic like two philosophers in dialogue in the wilderness.
In addition, one would like to think that painting has quickly removed the boundary between sea and land (forest), which is so elementary for the process of the development of life, by bringing together the listed animal classes. Sometimes the figures are more reminiscent of abstract thought, whether represented individually or in formations, in their abundance of cosmic fog, groups of parachutists and artificial swimmers, than of the animal models in the wild. The painting technique and overarching image structure, on the other hand, once again suggest the impression of a colorful tapestry.


In view of the biodiversity and its unmanageable representation in the picture, the viewer involuntarily finds himself in the role of a monkey researcher on a tropical expedition through the 'forest of figures': First of all, it is about spotting the different species of monkeys on the large format, identifying them on the basis of their 'forms' and to assign 'colors' that hardly correspond to the conditions in nature. Starting with the real ancestor of King Louie, the orangutan, whose representatives surprisingly present themselves here in green and without royal dignity. Instead, they mimic court jesters by teasing the larger of the two crocodiles, the turtle and a ray, pulling by the tail (see left half of the picture). Truly royal striding, standing upright or sitting peacefully together in a large group, on the other hand, figurations of the gorilla appear in blue-green and yellow (mostly in the right half of the picture).

Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –1/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 1/3

In the 'royal entourage' there are also blue baboons (upper half of the picture)

Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –1/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 1/3

and orange and white long-tailed macaques (lower and right edge of the picture). The white and blue Hanuman langurs stand out from the crowd - they are pretty slender monkeys with a black face (upper left half of the picture).
The 'courtiers' also include two closely related families who are difficult to distinguish on the canvas due to their black color and almost identical appearance: chimpanzees and bonobos (dwarf chimpanzees).












Sources (selection)

Bild. Gorilla baby born in Berlin Zoo/ Youtube (March 12th, 2021).
Artist talk with OTGO on March 8th, 2021.
museenkoeln/ Nana oder Niki? Bild der 42. Woche 15-21. Oktober 2007 (21.03.2021).
National Geographic Channel Wild/ Ape Genius , Documentary HD 2017. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKwlhVNish0 , 03.03.2021).
National Geographic Channel Wild/ Kingdom of the Apes, Battle Lines, Documentary HD 2018. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxU5BknIuSI, 12.03.2021).
naturhistorisches Museum Wien/ Venusforschung (21.03.2021).
The Jungle Book, I wanna be like you, Youtube (15.03.2021).
Zoo und Tierpark Berlin. Nachwuchs bei den Gorillas im Zoo Berlin
(15.03.2021).





Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –2/3
Kingdom of the Apes – 2 by OTGO 160 x 150 cm






Andrea Gamp

Konstanz – Berlin, März 2021
OTGO: Triptych Kingdom of the Apes
-- The original text in German --




Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –1/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 1/3

In the wild they appear as two extremes - while the chimpanzees are almost the only carnivores (among the monkeys) who, like humans, hunt in groups and with self-made spears, the bonobos prefer peace. They settle conflicts over the act of procreation and keep their own dead within the community. In the picture, the striking affinity of the chimpanzee with humans is demonstrated, among other things, by similar sexual behavior (kissing, sexual intercourse). The literal 'charm' of bonobos is evident in numerous painted couples snuggling close together, but also in mothers with young animals who play and hug each other. A difference between apes and humans seems to be completely eliminated in the design of the yellow proboscis monkeys, whose faces the painter made almost human. In addition, they structure the image field in rows one behind the other, which play through different postures and thus call up popular evolution graphics (left half of the image, middle / bottom).

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Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 1/3 Nasenaffen

So it should already be clear from the previous considerations: All figures in this picture are one! It is not only the subject of primates that integrates man into the animal kingdom, which is to be seen, but a visible evolution in different stages. Flora and fauna, various animal classes and the prehistoric transition from marine to land animals are also included, as well as life-threatening enemies on the one hand, and reproduction and fertility on the other. So it is not simply 'Affenliebe' as blind affection that demonstrates human figuration in the picture, but precisely this fertility of cyclical life.

Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –1/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 1/3

That's why OTGO's typical human figures are minimalist, naked, hairless, but clearly recognizable by their gender characteristics. Numerous mothers with children can be made out. All figures show themselves in a variety of ways frontally, from the side and as back figures in all possible poses. Some have elongated limbs, dizzyingly slim waists and large feet, resembling models on the catwalk. But what are the human figures actually doing in the picture? According to their postures, one can guess that they are geared towards reproduction. The bodies with the splayed extremities do not only perform movements that at best resemble yoga asanas (for example the 'dog'), gymnastics (handstand) or expressive dance elements (jumps). Your stretches and splits could also appear in an hour of pelvic floor or pregnancy exercises. In addition, the above-mentioned 'layering of figures', their combinations and touches, as well as an obvious point in the image inspired by the Kama Sutra (top right) also allow the viewer further chains of association.


The deviations that distinguish the second painting Kingdom of the Apes (2021, 2/3, 160 x 150 cm) from the first may be less striking when viewed from a distance than those in the third painting. But on closer inspection, the structure of the second painting is also noticeably different. The background of the picture experiences a stronger compression, individual layers of paint can be separated less. This is also due to the painting style, which is more informal, and more crusts of paint become visible in the streak of light through overpainting. The inner picture frame is missing, so that the rainforest is able to proliferate here beyond the picture borders. The rows of yellow proboscis monkeys mark the picture field in wide arcs like seams or scars, and swarms of purple rays and a large proportion of finely structured, yellow and red foliage structure the picture.

Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –2/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 2/3

The coloring here is determined by the mixed colors orange and violet, in addition to the primary colors yellow and red. Deep ultramarine blue complements the new color distribution. There is also this concentration on the level of figuration: Figures are even more 'pushed' one on top of the other, appear 'clumped together' and are 'mixed up' across species. For example, an orange orangutan in the midst of a network of nasal monkey tails and rays no longer knows what happens to him when he is embraced by five bonobos and three people at the same time and thus literally 'besieged' (upper right picture).

Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –2/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 2/3

The same type of monkey can also be seen in the picture, the contrary 'defiguration processes', as these figures become 'permeable' through the thin glazes for the underlying layers of foliage, as if they were threatening to disappear again in the jungle. This can definitely be seen as a sideswipe at species extinction and threatened animal species! Even more often, however, 'figure overlays' fragment the bodies in the picture. Other animal figures experience a 'redistribution': fewer zebras are used, but the aquatic animals are reinforced. Tadpoles teeming with the rays, again animals that indicate a certain stage of development (larva of the anurans).

Once again the painter worked out the monkeys among the shown primates in more detail than the humans using contours and internal structures. Nevertheless, there are not as many differentiable species as in the first picture. OTGO focused on the larger species and isolated individuals. There are also monkeys that are painted in shades of blue, but cannot be clearly identified based on their body shape. A new species appears - purple-colored, female hybrid beings, which have just as voluminous bodies as most female figures, but instead have a monkey head and more or less fur.

Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –2/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 2/3

In the case of chimpanzees and bonobos, red figures appear in addition to the black ones. A 'tipping point' in the representation reveals itself when these monkeys carry human children in front of them in an all too human manner, as if they wanted to bring them (think of their respective nature) either to the baptism or to the sacrificial table. The gorillas are generally gray-green again - except for one individual who stands out from the others in terms of color and size: a truly regal gorilla male, whose light blue-gray coloring identifies a silverback.

Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –2/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 2/3

Light yellow speckles of color cover the fur, give it shine and remind one of constellations. Larger orange dots surround the head like a nimbus or a crown and radiate auratically to the side. Two yellow proboscis monkeys sit on his shoulders and two human figures lie and kneel at his feet, as if he deserved their honor. The gorilla king is in a significant position at the bottom of the picture diagonal - as the antagonist of a magnificent tiger (top right), who embodies a solitary enemy of the primates.

Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –2/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 2/3

The big cat seems to be walking according to the sequence of steps, but turns its body axis in order to fix the viewer directly from the picture by looking over the shoulder. For a moment you could think you got into a film still with Shere Khan. And one remembers - also in the kingdom of the apes it is up to the regent to offer his followers protection against rivals and other enemies, otherwise he would be abandoned. A second remarkable figure constellation connects this monkey king with a female monkey figure in his immediate surroundings (in the picture on the right, shifted upwards by the male gorilla). Body shape and orange fur color are peculiar to the orangutans in this picture. However, its size, the oversized 'gripping hands' with the long fingers stretched out in a dramatic gesture and the wilted breasts make this female appear as a grotesque counter-figure to the male gorilla. Although his gaze goes in their direction, the two make a strangely composed royal couple!

Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –2/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 2/3    













Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –3/3
Kingdom of the Apes – 3 by OTGO 190 x 160 cm












Another curious 'change' in the painting Kingdom of the Apes 2/3: Most human figures are corpulent women. The painter OTGO declared this in an artist talk as a homage to the baroque female figures of the great Flemish Peter Paul Rubens2. If one goes beyond the medium of painting and drawing as flat art, two art-historical extremes, such as Stone Age Venus figurines3 or Niki de Saint Phalles' Nana sculptures4, are equally suitable models for corresponding body images. In fact, OTGO's second painting contains only a few thin ones, who seem to swirl in graceful swimming movements through an image field full of 'curvy models'. On the basis of the numerous babies, toddlers and mother-child constellations, the observer might want to revise this impression and infer pregnant women. The teeming tadpoles around the female body as an indication of fertilization make such a thesis plausible. Accordingly, one can assume that the 'reproductive efforts' from the first picture literally 'paid off' and revealed themselves in the second picture as 'growth phases that have become figures'.

2 For example, Four studies of naked women, around 1595, pen and brown ink on paper, 174 x 128 mm, Musée du Louvre, Paris.
3 Particularly well-known is the Venus of Willendorf, approx. 29500 years old, oolite and red chalk, 11cm x O.A., Natural History Museum Vienna.
4 For example Black Nana, 1968/69, painted polyester, 293 x 200 x 120 cm, Museum Ludwig Cologne.



The Kingdom of the Apes (3/3
, 2021, 190 x 160 cm) is laid out in many ways as the climax of the arranged triptych: Even the coloring is noticeably refreshed with strong complementary contrasts of purple and yellow as well as red-orange and dark green.

Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –3/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 3/3

As in the first picture, there is an internal frame and a lot of ornamental vegetation, but a strikingly different internal structure of the image field. Evenly distributed are 'islands' of small, green foliage with color gradients. These contribute to the fact that, when viewed from a distance, the image field appears pulsating or even permeated by clusters of cells. Around these 'nests' 'wild life' rages in a newly composed figuration.
The well-known aquatic animals (rays, tadpoles) are also joined by white and yellow zebras and other striped ungulates, the okapis (forest giraffes).


Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –3/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 3/3

They are a particularly endangered species, which is captured in the picture through the extraordinary transition from opacity (in the stripes) to transparency (on the rest of the body) within each individual figure. In other words, the impending disappearance of this animal species is reproduced using glazes. A particularly exotic pair, white and black little anteaters (tamanduas) cavort (on the right edge of the picture) below a lying lion.

Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –3/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 3/3

It is remarkable how the 'King of the Animals' has positioned himself in picture field at the edges of the picture - both in packs with playing young animals and as a single male in a side view. The lion, as the enemy of the primates, has multiplied many times and doesn't seem to let everyone else out of sight from the edge of the forest!

Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –3/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 3/3

Gray monkey families and couples inhabit the conspicuous nests, in which they each place themselves in the middle and crouch close to each other. Only a single nest houses a completely lonely specimen as a turned brooding figure. Green shades allow the monkeys to blend in with the vegetation, giving the nests the appearance of hiding places or green pools in the rainforest. The body shape, the gray coloring and the figurative combination bring the viewer alias monkey researcher on the trail of Japanese macaques. The monkey species is famous for living together in matrilineal groups and celebrating a body care ritual in hot springs, which in turn strengthens the social cohesion of bathers. Admittedly, the picture may only be a 'bath of leaves' - the painter OTGO does not meticulously follow the natural laws of real space, but works with inspiration from memory.
'Old acquaintances' are the chimpanzees and bonobos. Without a doubt, as in many of OTGO's paintings, they again take on a foolish part in the portrayal. Their ‘monkey tricks’ consist of either gathering as it were in a polonaise around a 'green island' of the Japanese macaques or, alternatively, using the rays firmly anchored in the image program as 'climbing frames'. Finally, they play lasso with the cartilaginous fish or hold them by the long tail fins like one holds a bunch of helium balloons (middle / right half of the picture, right edge of the picture above).


Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –3/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 3/3

Even their closest relatives, humans, are used for 'games' - and without further ado they become mounts for cocky ape boys (lower edge of the picture). And then of course there is also the royal family - figurations of the gorillas, which were incorporated in this picture in the signal color red-orange. This time, the royal male is no exception to this color scheme - nevertheless, it can be identified as such based on its size, the cheetah on its shoulders and the 'scattering' nimbus of splashes of color. Interestingly, the fine sheen on the predecessor's fur has given way to the big cat spots on this individual, as if they were 'jumping over' from the figure on the shoulders to the monkey. One could very well speak of a 'figure transformation' which reinforces the incarnation of the royal.

Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –3/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 3/3

The female purple monkeys as hybrid creatures have now distributed a lot of offspring in the picture. In general, the mother-child constellations continue to prevail among the primates. While in the second picture numerous human toddlers are still lying on their stomachs rolled on skates and evoke the Māori myth from the children's film Whale Rider (2002), in Kingdom of the Apes 3/3 they have partly outgrown this stage and appear as independent ones Figure group on (right edge of the picture).

Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –3/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 3/3

The movements of the women again describe swimming and dancing, but they also assume positions of rest: action and contemplation. Furthermore, some human figures already indicate a higher level of being, as they appear in white bodies, the color that OTGO usually assigns to animals as "spirit beings". “That was a coincidence”, the painter comments - but this too has its justification in the evolution of species and in the cyclical becoming of life.

What may the future hold? OTGO's painting responds to this final thought with two matching figures - wild ‘zebra women’ ‘(at the bottom left of the picture)! They point to another triptych on which the artist is currently still working and at the same time propagate the questions: Do these two figures produce each other in flashy costumes, a covered morphsuit in an ongoing fun society? 'Making yourself a monkey' has least in common with animals. Or will they be hybrids? And, one more open ending: How far does the 'ape man' want to distance himself from his origins until he finally understands what he is doing to them?


Detailansicht: Triptych: Kingdom of the Apes –3/3
Detailed view: Kingdom of the Apes – 3/3












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