Andrea Gamp
Constance - Berlin, February 2021
OTGO:  The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus – or Confetti in Hell?

-- The original text in German --

2020 marks a break. It is the year of the catastrophe in which the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, overtakes people around the world. Life as it was before has been swept away, the new one resembles a dystopia: The pandemic claims millions of deaths and sick people, overworks health systems and fuels science in laboratories. We see a new grimace of globalization. Politicians argue, rush ahead, want to make a name for themselves - in the end they all crashes the economy against the wall. The population must learn to live with medical masks, contact blocks and massive restrictions, both professionally and privately. Hygiene concepts are to be followed. Lockdown and short-time work mean less money for people with maximum flexibility, or even loss of work. Kindergartens and schools are temporarily closed. There are no cultural events, museums, theaters and cinemas are closed. Sport only takes place outdoors and sporadically. The physical separation through the distance requirement, even in close family and friends, and the fears about health and the future hit people on the soul. Talents such as creativity and strong nerves are required. And some people realize: slowing down and concentrating on the essentials can also be an enormous benefit! Other, new networks have to be created. Digital platforms are mostly used to replace previous habits and forms of communication in human interaction. Panic purchases from toilet paper and canned food, closed restaurants and rank growth on their heads are some of the factors that cause frustration in everyday life. Planes stay on the ground, the vacation is canceled. Only nature and the environment enjoy a little relaxation from 'humane tyranny'!



The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020 acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
With  The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus (2020), the artist OTGO (* 1981) has created a picture that not only reflects the conditions of the decisive year outlined above in an intensified work process. The coronavirus is already explicitly addressed in the title and subject. The artist himself describes his motivation for the picture as follows:


"Corona has been present every day for a year. There are tons of information about Corona, the number of people who have died from Corona and the problems ... Corona created many problems. That made me feel like I had to paint the picture."

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

It is indeed a ''secret germinal layer of the coronavirus' that people around the world have to deal with in the literal, medical and figurative sense - every single one of them! This is what the figures within this picture do in their own specific way, the composition of which is constituted by a large, typically crowned octopus (the word corona also means “crown” in Italian and Spanish).
 
The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

The marine animal with its eight reaching tentacles, which swims stretched out to the left of the picture, acts as a symbol for the rampant virus. One of the characteristics of the highly intelligent species of cephalopods is that they change color and shape and, through camouflage, become almost invisible to their enemies. Corona, which is invisible in real space, is directly recognizable in the image on the virus particles with the characteristic protein structure, which glow yellow towards the viewer. 

It is spreading“, as OTGO expresses. And he adds soothing:

Freedom and happiness are part of it. The curfew: suddenly the whole world is silent. Ethnology. All of this is important for the picture. Slowing down, living in silence is very painful and problematic for mankind, but for nature it is the opposite. She recovers, and now winter is coming, a real winter. Well, it is exactly that contrast I want to make clearer in the picture."

The medium format of 75 x 100 cm, acrylic on canvas, is unusual for OTGO's oeuvre. It is the 'harbinger' of a larger triptych on the subject of Corona, Last Supper (2020-2021, acrylic on canvas, 215 x 300 cm, 215 x 400 cm, 215 x 300 cm) the artist is currently still working on. The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus also maintains 'interactions' with some large formats in acrylic from the same year, which can only be mentioned at this point: Kingdom of the Apes (triptych:  312 x 312 cm, 160 x 150 cm and 190 x 160 cm), most obviously from the identical central monkey figures; or Infinite –16  (2013-2020, 213 x 650 cm), which celebrates all-embracing being in the sense of Lamaist Buddhism.
The coloring in The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus is peculiar because it predominantly shows all 'fire colors' or shades of red, orange and yellow that associate with warmth, interspersed with black. On the one hand, this extends to the background of the picture, which is designed with traces of color flow, on which the figuration is created in layers. On the other hand, the coloring also affects the individual human and animal figures. The yellow is also very present in the picture, which, as mentioned above, marks the virus itself, but also the structurally related eye of the octopus, money in the form of coins and the fur of individual zebras.
 
The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

The large proportion of black is given to the dominant monkeys, which resemble chimpanzees and thus embody conspecifics of humans. In addition, the light brown acts as a basic tone for the skin of the octopus. Small proportions of the primary colors blue, red and yellow 'scatter' like confetti in fine blobs around the virus particles and thus provide an idea of depicting the 'spreading' of the aerosols.

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

Blue is mixed with white to denote respirators and skulls. Pure white is reserved for the skulls or can be found in stark contrast to black in the stripes of the zebras. 
The application of paint in this picture appears overall opaque, even if glazes are detectable, visible for example on the red monkey without contour lines at the top of the picture. All other individual figures generally consist of fine, black ink contours, into each of which color is written over a large area. What is striking about The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus is the differentiated painting style, which abstracts the human figures more strongly than the animal ones. In their reduction to naked, hairless beings with female or male gender characteristics, who at most still wear face masks, they look as if they were taken from a comic strip.

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

The faces of the monkeys, on the other hand, have more internal structures, their facial expressions are more clearly formulated. 'New' in the lines are also the many small circles and hatching for the skin texture of the octopus and the wavy lines for the suction cups.
OTGO's characteristic signature, the thumbprint with lettering in vertical writing direction, can be found in the lower right corner of the picture. In addition, the yellow thumbprint is present several times in the image field as an 'identity marker'.

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

With regard to the figuration, it should also be said that the entire image field is densely 'populated' by human and animal figures: a wealth of detail that is characteristic of OTGO's works and is rooted in miniature painting. The figures all remain in the area. Nevertheless, the “interwoven” layers of color in the picture create an impression of depth, of a color space in the image field. The search for a 'classic picture structure' of foreground, middle and background remains in vain.
The structuring falls to a figure, more precisely to the large octopus, which as a 'connex figure' 'holds together' the zones of the image field. From the background of the picture, the octopod seems to 'appear' in the midst of the mammals (primates, equidae). In the process, his tentacles 'swirl' up the picture ground in serpentine shapes and curls, only to finally 'dive' into it again. Corresponding to the swimming movement of the animal, the masses of the other figures “wash around” it in the picture as if in a whirlpool.
However, from a distance it is still unclear how the actual picture is to be interpreted. Rather, it appears in the overview as an anarchic, absurd hustle and bustle full of 'scurrying movements' between the different groups of figures (monkeys, people, riders). The beholder's eye is continuously challenged to 'scan' the individual sections of the image in order to gradually develop connections contrary to conventional viewing experiences.


The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

To take  the octopus' tentacles as a starting point, it is immediately noticeable that it is the black monkeys and their offspring who do all kinds of practical jokes! Their seemingly endless rows along the tentacles and their postures, such as the 'laying on' of the arms or playful gestures using the skull, suggest a spectacle like in theater boxes or at banquets. An event for young and old! The top tentacle, which extends far forward, serves the monkeys as a 'climbing tree'.

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

And also the virus, which apparently cannot harm this species, ‘follows’ it above. The rolled tentacles transform into 'swings' for the animals. Apparently the monkeys in the picture do all those things with a 'fun factor' that their relatives, humans, are denied during the pandemic due to the risk of infection.



The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
OTGO YouTube VIDEO








 


 


































 












The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

Speaking of the primate family - in The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus it becomes clear that the boundary between humans and monkeys has been abolished, which the painting realizes, among other things, through the black, human figures at the top of the picture. The monkeys are almost humanized and portrayed as the most diverse and active figures in the picture. Indeed it is the monkeys who look mischievously and wicked out of the picture as well as interact internally through visual relationships with one another or with people. The latter, however, react with terrified, wide open eyes, staring into space, averted or even closed eyes. They seldom direct their gaze beyond the aesthetic border towards the viewer. The picture does not show any human saints, but rather large groups of monkeys wearing a nimbus (halo). But they are also the ones who 'hoard' money, carry guns with them and use violence! There is a part in the upper half of the picture in which men and women are threatened with weapons by monkeys as if they wanted to execute them. The monkeys in the picture harass and clasp human bodies, kidnapping the defenseless.

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

Often such victims are female figures, as can be seen several times between the octopus' middle tentacles. However, these primates treat each other differently: A few pairs of monkeys sitting close together can feel the affection in the upper right corner of the picture.

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

The painted monkeys could even be subordinated to social hierarchies. Immediately under the head of the octopus there are four crowned and armed monkey figures with implied necklaces ('spreading' particles), which appear in the habit of monarchs with crown jewels, but also plague human figures.

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

Does this actually call for the royal status of King Louie from Walt Disney's The Jungle Book (1967), or is it rather a reference to the negative situation caused by Corona? OTGO gives a comprehensive answer:

"There is the destruction of nature through human interaction, the responsibility of people towards nature and karma. The problem is the human ego, the human being is the sole ruler over nature ... For me humans and animals are not two but one. Now it is nature as a whole (excluding humans) that combats human greed, overpopulation, and power because humans are never satisfied. And money is man-made, wealth and consumption are essential here. The monkeys symbolize the origin of humans and themselves as animals fighting against humans on behalf of all other animals."

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

Furthermore, it is important for the attentive observer to discover figure overlays and accumulations. Figures lie on top of figures and thus themselves become the basis for further figuration. This is most evident in those two places in the upper half of the picture where, characteristically, large amounts of skulls and coins pile up over the living as if they wanted to suffocate them. This suggests, for example, a mass grave and mountains of debt - thoughts that do not seem misguided in view of the pandemic and its fatal consequences. OTGO gets to the point in the artist talk:

"Money in numbers also plays a major role in providing information, because never before has so much money been offered as aid as state support. You can't understand the numbers, millions, billions, trillions of help and support that are being offered. Will the money be able to help people and nature? Money as greed, power, wealth, as divine power, consumption?"

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

Different skull sizes and the grin of some specimens are therefore vehicles for a critical, ironic undertone.
The film buffs among the viewers will recognize the 'path of the dead' from Peter Jackson's trilogy The Lord of the Rings: that film scene from The Return of the King in which an 'avalanche' of such skulls falls when the cave collapses and threatens to bury the heroes. A third part of the 'condensation of figures', which brings rhythm into the layers of paint, is the 'cloud' of virus particles of different sizes that pushes over the coat, gills and beak of the octopus. As a result, the elements virus, death and money are fatefully linked in the picture as in life.


The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus
 
Defiguration is also inherent in The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus: Even the image detail at the top of the image causes some human heads to be cut off. The example of a male figure in the field of view riding a zebra with a child is curious.

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

Riding a wild zebra would be extraordinary in itself (since this species de facto refuses to be tamed), but occurs several times in the logic of the picture. The rider can be found directly below a bend in the octopus's upper tentacle, which simply runs as a layer of paint over the 'affected person': optically, however, the rider is not located in the background. Seen from the surface, it looks rather as if his head has been severed from his torso and he now wants to escape 'headless' from a hopeless situation!
At the bottom of the picture, only monkeys are affected by such 'mutilations' on their feet.


The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

The 'red monkeys' already mentioned above also represent a figurative 'decomposition process'. Due to their shadowy formulated bodies, the contoured, gray faces and ears stand out all the more - almost as if the bodies were transparent and 'swallowed' by the picture background of the same color or be 'decomposed'! One might think of these mischievous figures on the screen as 'distant relatives' of the 'Cheshire Cat', from the famous children's book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by the British Lewis Carroll (1865).


The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirusrus















 

 




Finally, the entire group of riders above the octopus head deserves a closer look, because the animal figures make them extraordinary and at the same time exemplary for the gestures of the human figures in the picture: the mounts in side view form a herd of zebras and horses that gallop (see sequence of steps) to the left, which seems to dash towards the border of the picture.

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

The zebras are white and yellow-striped figures, all of which are depicted faceless. Visually, the overlapping of their extremities and the stripe structures create a wild mess. The horses, on the other hand, also merge in color with their naked riders to red-orange figures and all have well-defined eyes, nostrils, manes and tails. The postures of the riders are 'loose' and flexible around the body axis, they ride the wild animals freely, without any pressure from saddle or bridle.

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

The color scheme and the way they are presented show them as riders with an Asian character. Obviously, given the close connection between these figures and their animals and the way they ride, one suspects Mongolian horsemen on a rapid ride through the steppe. One would think that OTGO's riders would also have to do with 'death and the devil' in the context of the picture. In fact, they are in every respect the extreme 'contrast program' to one of the most famous equestrian figures from western art history, the knight in Albrecht Dürer's copperplate engraving, Knight Death and the Devil  (1513).

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

Dürer's individual knight, technically worked out down to the smallest detail, exudes statics and calm. The horse remains trotting in the assembled position, in the multi-part bridle and tamed under the saddle. His rider is shown riding from the side to the left, but focuses his gaze forward and remains in the heaviness of the center of the body on the horse's back.
OTGO's riders sit remarkably differently on their mounts, mostly in pairs or three, often identifiable as father, mother and child by the figure sizes.
 

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

The motif of mothers with small children in their arms, which recurs several times in the picture, is also present here.

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

Some of the figures wear face mask, others turn their bodies backwards to avoid the virus particles flying around. A rider holds a skull in his arms.
 
The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

The riding figures illustrate fear and horror, sometimes with wide-open, twisted or closed eyes as well as defensive hand positions. Other human figures in the picture do the same.
 
For those other human figures in the picture field apart from the group of riders, the frontal, side view and back figures assume all possible sitting, lying and standing positions. Repetitions occur: groups of three, four and five between the tentacles of the octopus, whose individual figures copy poses as if they were 'aligned'.
 

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

The groups of figures in the upper right corner of the picture even seem to 'dance' individually with arms outstretched or folded behind the head.

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus

Comparable to these 'dancers', in addition to the lowest, rolled-up tentacle of the octopus, there is also a single, female figure in a fighting pose. She is surrounded by coins and virus particles. The outstretched fist and the mouth shaped into an exclamation almost make her a sister of the Ukrainian Femen demonstrators who is coined to the Corona situation.

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus
(Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix 1830)
(Oksana Schatschko 1987-2018)

In a group of three female figures with closed eyes and various gestures of despair, located between the octopus's central tentacles, the three graces are parodied:

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus
 
The first holds her head, presses her child to her, and cannot help the grip of a cocky monkey. The second clasps a skull against her stomach, half bent, and the third throws her arms in the air as if plaintively. Their hands do not find each other to touch or hug, the triad breaks down into isolation and loneliness. Each figure stands for itself.

In the end, there may be other contexts from Western art history that come to mind as comparative images. For example, modern depictions of hell by Hieronymus Bosch (around 1500/1510) or Sandro Botticelli's version of Dante Alighieri's Inferno from the Divina Commedia (1480/1490) - not least about the coloring and the tortures of naked bodies. The type of representation in The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus is also reminiscent of scenic imagery, such as the 'hidden objects' by Pieter Brueghel (around 1560). However, where Brueghel's figures can appear as staffage in rural landscapes and leave 'spaces in between' for a sequence of narratives in the picture, OTGO's figures depict a simultaneous coexistence in a 'vortex of movement' in the tightest, indefinable space. Despite the possible references mentioned above, it becomes clear once again, at the latest after this close comparison, that the painter OTGO is creating an original iconography. This offers the viewer a lot of room for interpretation - or just: confetti in hell!

The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020, acryl on canvas 75 x 100 cm
Detailed view: The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus
 
So what can postmodern painting show in the pandemic of Corona? Certainly one thing: Those who at present can still look at the world with an ironic wink despite all the adversities will make (surviving) life easier!

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Sources:

Artist talks on January 5th, 2021, January 12th, 2021 and February 1st, 2021
arte, Mysterious Beings: The Fascinating World of Cephalopods / Youtube (https://youtu.be/ma3JBzsTKOM, January 31th, 2021).
Homepage of the artist, (http://www.otgo.info/Werke/infinite.html, January 27th, 2021).
Otgo in lockdown (Artist in the Lockdown time: Part 1)/ Youtube, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBxz3ubHH14, January 22th, 2021).
The Secret Matrix of Coronavirus by OTGO 2020
/ Youtube
(https://youtu.be/HEBj1USNL4o, December 24th, 2020).



 


 





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