OTGO (*1981, Otgonbayar Ershuu) whose origins lie in Mongolia
studied traditional Mongolian painting in Ulaanbaatar. He started out
working for research projects as painter and restorer. He travelled
throughout Mongolia in a nomadic lifestyle for six years visiting
monasteries to receive training in painting techniques, iconography and
meditation of minitature painting. Since 2001 he holds international
exhibitions, e.g. at 'The National Museum of Fine Arts of R.
Moldova' Kishinev, Moldovia in 2016, or within the framework of a
retrospective held by 'The National Art Gallery of Mongolia'
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in 2018, or at the 'Józsefvárosi
Galéria' Budapest, Hungary in 2020.
at the Münsterplatz, Art Association Constance. Photo by Georg Greitemann
to his continued studies in Art in Context, from which he graduated in
2010 obtaining a Master of Arts from the Berlin University of Arts, he
relocated his center of life to Germany. OTGO runs his own Art studio
in Berlin, called Otgo’s Art Space. OTGO is known as one of Mongolia’s
most famous art figures. Hence, he was entrusted with the task to newly
interpret a 800-year-old piece of literary history: Drawing on the
medium of comics he realized the national epic The Secret History of the Mongols evolving around
the conquerer Ghengis Khan (1155-1227) in 3000 ink drawings.
The Secret History of the Mongols,
Drawings by OTGO since 1998, around 3000 miniature drawings. Ink on
Paper, 15 x 10cm.
The beginnings of OTGO’s paintings had an
impact on Thangka
hand painted scroll paintings in tantric Buddhism with their
predefined, detail-rich iconography, which includes Buddhas,
Bodhisattvas (enlightened beings) and lamas, among others. These mobile
displays play at sacred spaces, but also private residences; they are
suited for travel cases and processions. OTGO’s approach enabled the
paintings to be applied directly to the canvas, which he had grounded
ahead of time with a special mixture of carbon black, chalk, milk and
vodka (or Brandy) without pre-drawing.
Thangka by OTGO 1998 Tempera on
cotton, 7 x 6 cm
He fixed the colors made from plant and mineral pigments on both sides
of the canvas with Yak-skin glue. Meditative
miniature painting is not new in Mongolia, it already existed in
The Art of Love by OTGO 1999–2002
Tempera on cotton, 17,5 x 24 cm
One example of a contemporary implementation is OTGO’s 1000 men miniature (The Art of Love,
1999-2002, Tempera on cotton, 17,5 x 24 cm), which displays
Kamasutra-techniques in tantric structures. The small-format reveals its
ingenuity under the laid out magnifying glass – even more astonishing
as the artist managed to create them with unaided eyes!
What occupies Otgo’s mind while he is
The Mongolian lamaist formation of Buddhism occupies the artist in a
meditative work process: It is the spirit, which supersedes the
painting hands. The concentration does not focus on conscious thinking,
but on the act in itself. Topics such as "oneness" with all things and
the cosmos, intimate animal-human-relationships, the relationships with
nature as well as critique regarding ecological destruction and animal
abuse. An example therefore (besides the exhibition infinity at the Art Association Constance) is his work Antarctic
(2015-16, 300 x 900 cm), which ultimately raises awareness about the
extinction of penguins since the last two centuries in a “tearful
manner” through the flow lines of paint.
work in progress. OTGO Studio Berlin 2015 'Antarctic Panorama Penguins'
by OTGO 2015-2016, acryl on canvas, 300 x 900 cm, Berlin. The 300 by
900 cm tall panorama painting consists of 12 equal-sized single
paintings, each measuring 150 by 150 cm
For his newer creations OTGO has started to
use acrylic on canvas, as they can be seen in the exhibition
(with exception of the work 1000 humans
This enables him to work fast and be mobile – which is an advantage for
pictures, which like to "travel". The figurations which are entangled
with iconographic programs of Western Postmodernism expand across large
formats in many interwoven layers of paintings. The work process
remains visible: thin ink-contours, grids and banded structures compete
with drop, spray and flowing trails of acrylic paint. Off and one may
discover Otgo’s thumb print with signature. Tellingly, are the partial
shifts from pastos-opaque to glazing-transparent paint applications, an
abstracting "comic-like" style without panels as well as horizontal and
vertical glimmering number combinations entering into the image field.
view: Infinite – 1 by OTGO
2014–2019, acrylic on canvas 160 x 150 cm
Subjects, which still tend to be
frowned upon, such as nude figures and hermaphrodites, also find entry.
has affixed the ettiquette "hybrid" for OTGO's creation and argues
towards a sense of "transcultural world art." The panoply of these
creations stretches from the foundational colors of blue, red and
yellow to mixtures and pastel nuances towards black and white. The
design vocabulary plays with the perception of the observer: proximity
and distance create tension within the image field saturated with
figurative details. Moreover one can discover a figuration which is
rhythmically condensed across the corners of the picture. Or one may
find overriding structures like symbols on the surface of the image, a "Chinese Dragon" or "cosmic abyss" in the creations Hun (Humans,
2010-12, 217 x 660 cm) and Zurag (Horses‘,
2019, 100 x 175 cm), which seek dialogue across the room as counterpart
via their hanging.
is those two pictures
which are discussed most intensively during guided tours, which is
possibly due to the selection of format, image aesthetics, but also the
perceptive experiences. Hun
has its origins in the old Chinese and Tibetan genre of scroll pictures
and is the product of three years of meditative-ritual work – however
limited to the weekday of Wednesday! Not the Saints are the subjects of
this work, but almost 20000 single figures 'a thicket of humans' in
which some animals have "gone astray" (mice, crocodiles, giraffes,
tigers, peacocks, jaguars, snakes among others). The human bodies are
nude, hairless, and display absurd gestures.
Detailed view: „humans“ Hun by OTGO 2010–2012 acrylic on canvas, 217 x 660 cm
seems as if they were entangled with one another with their bodyparts
in undefinable erotic games – a breach of taboo in Mongolia, which
resulted in accusations that OTGO was painting "pornography". While the
human figures consist of thin, black ink-contours and color-fields
based on foundational colors and their mixtures, wild and domesticated
animals are kept in black and white to point to their function as
spiritual beings. Some of the human figures seem to devour each other –
wide opened mouths surround the limbs of another. This is not intended
in a cannibalist sense, but in a figurative sense: a critique of the
malicious interaction between humans.
Detailed view: „humans“ Hun by OTGO 2010–2012
Acrylic on Canvas, 217 x 660 cm
a technical point of view these pictorial image positions can be
classified as defigurations. In any case the 'formation' and
'fragmentation' of figures alternate in Hun, to which the 'overlapping' of
figures and indication through the pictorial margins. Figures are
layered over figures, figuration becomes the foundation. A strong
charging of the pictorial ground lets the scroll image catch up with
European modernity and postmodernism. Depending on whether the observer
approaches an image detail or observes the large format as a whole from
the distance he/she will be either drawn into or cast out of the image:
the pictorial structure gets lost in the entangled bodies and reveals a
white 'abyss' above the paint layers, like a cosmic sign on the image’s
on the opposite wall takes on this effect and mirrors it in its depth:
The paint layers suggest a three dimensional space in the image field.
The shape of this 'abyss' is connected to the idea of the abyss of a
wide canyon. The abstract animal figures, which make up a vast number
of horse herds, stretch across the image carrier, as fine grid and top
layer of the painting.
strong color scheme is conspicuous; a deep, dominant blue oscillating
with an elucidative color gradient on a black-brown ground, with golden
streaks. A trace of the divine or the enormous cloud of dust behind
countless, thundering hooves? The color gradients and condensation of
ornamental figures make the picture rhythmical.
by OTGO 2019, acrylic on canvas 100 x 175 cm
It seems to be pulsating beyond the corners of the picture and
expresses energy, movement and liveliness in accordance with its
The title of the exhibition… infinite,
evokes associations, as free composition or flowing painting process in
meditative immersion, as unbound expansion and condensation of the
figuration beyond the boundaries of the image canvas, or as the impact
of digitalization on contemporary painting. The title of the exhibition
infinite likewise just invokes the respective eponymous titles of the
picture triptychons (2014-19, 160 x 150 cm each), and a "cycle" of twelve
canvasses (2018-19, 200 x 100 cm each).
A special feature of the Tryptichon infinite
is that the human shapes of both pictures on the outside are only
existent in weak contours. The animals seem to be formulated stronger
in the first picture, particularly the doe present in Mongolian myths.
Nature is being interrupted by 'digital tears' contorted lines and
net-like circuit board-structures and disrupted by number-codes in the
horizontals. The consolidation in the center-picture is realized to the
extreme – the natural beings are completely banned from there! With the
twelve-piece cycle infinite
in the small hall the peak of painterly dissolution is reached
alongside the special endpoint of the exhibition: OTGO points to the
consequences, which the digital age demands of human perception with
"flickering" canvasses of colored number-codes and net-structures. For
once, the twelve uniform formats were planned, specifically created for
the exhibition and hung so that the room takes on the effect of a
contrast-program to the church-windows in the corridor.
the small hall holds its own religious-sacred content (twelve apostles,
pope-election of the Middle Ages, Belief-God-Number). The artist even
modulated the wallpaint (a harmonizing dove-blue) with regard to the
colored canvases. From behind 'cloudy' number-codes and
light-blue-grey grid-structures the human figuration step out of their
'prison' as ghostly silhouettes on dark ground in order to immediately
escape into them once more. The diffused figures evoke laid out, female
and male bodies. Their life-size, the angled foot position of some
specimen, and transparent organs indicated by glazes, recall anatomy as
possible context. Red color fields turn into small circuit boards. The
number-codes and grids conjure the internet, Wi-Fi, chip-cards, disks,
timetables and plates: they stand for a new belief in numbers, greed
and the loss of concentration and meditation. Briefly, the sense of
life has been annuled out. The machines are controlling us humans
already and we are caught in digital webs.
KUNSTVEREIN KONSTANZ Window by OTGO 2017–2019, 6
pictures acrylic on canvas. 200 x 75 cm each
Many excited testimonials by visitors
give positive feedback about the lively color compositions
and praise the diligence expressed by the attention awarded to detail
in the 'swarm' of human and animal figures.
of the paintings which contain 'cloud formations' inspired by
digitalization, made up of eight-digit, colored number-codes animate
onlookers time and again to speculate about area codes and
passwords. Most of them would like to see the cryptic motive
spontaneous installation also receives curious interest, together with
its associated anecdote: an original yurt (tent-grid) from Mongolia,
which found its way back into the requisites of the studio after the
passing of a friend.
OTGO opted to include the yurt into the exhibition ad hoc during the
planning-phase after being encouraged by Maria Lacher-Rapps. For OTGO
the two-pieced wooden-grid is itself a carrier of its own, positive
energy inherent of a feeling of home and containing the traces of life
(grains of sand, a small feather). For some layperson it transforms
into a mysterious art object within the White Cube of the art association.
KUNSTVEREIN KONSTANZ Window by
OTGO 2017–2019, 6 pictures acrylic on canvas. 200 x 75 cm each Other testimonials of visitors
imply that the artist might have commercial intentions. This was the
case regarding the colored church-windows, 6 windows (2017-19, each 200
x 75 cm) in the hallway, which had normally been discussed regarding
their figure-ground-relation in the course of guided tours and which
affect a phenomenon in painting since modernity with their revaluation
of the picture ground. Until finally the question came up, whether
intentions to realize them in sacred space might be lurking behind the
creation of the church-windows which are surrounded by flowing and
colored underwater-worlds of animal and human figurations. One might
think of the windows Gerhard Richter created for the Cologne dome in
second question of the same commentator, which again was posed opposite
aesthetic sensations: The grid of flowing color lines in the triptych White (2014-15, 200 x 75, 200 x 150, 200 x 75 cm) disrupts the subject
of interacting women, hares, billy goats, leopards and kangaroos.
Without such a figuration the artist would be able to market his
creations in tapestries, he must have connections to the textile
In conclusion one may say that OTGO
has rendered a part of world-art accessible through his exhibition infinite
in the Art Association Constance, which successfully unites Mongolian
tradition and postmodern tricks in fresh figurations on canvas. It
continues doing so, even when its deeper meaning does not become
apparent for each onlooker.
Vernissage: ‚UNENDLICH‘ KUNSTVEREIN KONSTANZ
(„infinite“ Art Association Constance)
Vernissage: ‚UNENDLICH‘ KUNSTVEREIN KONSTANZ
Gottfried: Der Grund. Über das ikonische Kontinuum, in: Ders./ Burioni,
Matteo (ed.): Der Grund. Das Feld des Sichtbaren, München 2012, p.
Boehm, Gottfried/Brandstetter, Gabriele/ by Müller, Achatz (ed.): Figur
und Figuration. Studien zu Wahrnehmung und Wissen, Paderborn 2007,
(image and text).
Boehm, Gottfried/ Burioni, Matteo (ed.): Der Grund. Das Feld des
Sichtbaren, München 2012, p. 440-473.
Brandstetter, Gabriele/Peters, Sibylle (eds.): de figura. Rhetorik –
Bewegung – Gestalt, München 2002.
Buddhapur Magazine www.buddhapur.de,
Ershuu, Otgonbayar: BLUE. Ausstellungskatalog [exhibition catalogue],
Ulaanbaatar Mongolei, 2016.
Homepages of the artist and Dr. Renate Bauwe www.otgo.info, mongolian-art.de,
artist interview of OTGO with Andrea Gamp 09/19/2019 at the Art
artist interview of OTGO with Andrea Gamp 02/12/2020 in Constance.
Lauter, Rolf: Otgonbayar Ershuu. Antarctic Panorama www.mongolian-art.de
Lorenz, Ulrike: Ershuu, Otgonbayar. White www.mongolian-art.de,
Pichler, Wolfram: Zur Kunstgeschichte des Bildfeldes, in: Boehm,
Gottfried/ Burioni, Matteo (eds.): Der Grund. Das Feld des Sichtbaren,
München 2012, p. 440-473.