Andrea Gamp
Translation by Elisa Kohl-Garrity. Halle (Saale), Germany, January 2021         
OTGO Otgonbayar Ershuu: unendlich (infinite), exhibition at 'Kunstverein Konstanz', September 21 - November 24, 2019
A synthesis of public tours for the archive

-- The original text in German --


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.

Otgo: UNENDLICH Kunstverein Konstanz
OTGO at the Münsterplatz, Art Association Constance. Photo by Georg Greitemann

Due 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. 

Otgo: UNENDLICH Kunstverein Konstanz
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.

Miniature OTGO
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 pre-Buddhist times. 

1000 Menschen-01, Tempera auf Baumwolle, 17,5x24cm, Jahr 1999-2002 OTGO
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! 

1000 Menschen-01, Tempera auf Baumwolle, 17,5x24cm, Jahr 1999-2002 OTGO
exhibition view: UNENDLICH‘ KUNSTVEREIN KONSTANZ
The Art of Love by OTGO 1999–2002 Tempera on cotton, 17,5 x 24 cm
 
What occupies Otgo’s mind while he is painting? 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 Panorama Penguins, (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.

Antarctic Panorama 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
Detail: 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 miniature). 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.


unendlich 1 detail
Detailed view:
Infinite – 1 by OTGO 2014–2019,
acrylic on canvas 160 x 150 cm

 


































 












"HUN" painting by OTGO 217 x 660 cm, acryl on canvas, 2010 - 2012 OTGO in Berlin
exhibition view:‚UNENDLICH‘ KUNSTVEREIN KONSTANZ („infinite“ Art Association Constance)
„humans“ Hun by OTGO 2010–2012 acrylic on canvas, 217 x 660 cm

Subjects, which still tend to be frowned upon, such as nude figures and hermaphrodites, also find entry. Fittingly, Dr. Ulrike Lorenz 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.

It 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.

"HUN" painting by OTGO 217 x 660 cm, acryl on canvas, 2010 - 2012 OTGO in Berlin
Detailed view:
„humans“ Hun by OTGO 2010–2012 acrylic on canvas, 217 x 660 cm

It 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.
 
"HUN" painting by OTGO 217 x 660 cm, acryl on canvas, 2010 - 2012 OTGO in Berlin
Detailed view:
„humans“ Hun by OTGO 2010–2012 Acrylic on Canvas, 217 x 660 cm

From 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 surface. Zurag 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.

«UNENDLICH» – OTGO Solo Exhibition KUNSTVEREIN KONSTANZ GERMANY
exhibition view:‚UNENDLICH‘ KUNSTVEREIN KONSTANZ
ZURAG 200607 by OTGO 2019, acrylic on canvas 100 x 175 cm

The 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. 

ZURAG 200607 by OTGO 2019, acryl on canvas 100 x 175 cm
URAG 200607 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 subject 'horses'.

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).
 

Triptychons unendlich
exhibition view:‚UNENDLICH‘ KUNSTVEREIN KONSTANZ
Triptych infinite by OTGO 2014–2019, acrylic on canvas 160 x 150 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.
 

Otgo unendlich
exhibition view:‚UNENDLICH‘ KUNSTVEREIN KONSTANZ
INFINITE 04–15 by OTGO 2018–2019, acrylic on canvas 200 x 100 cm each.



Simultaneously 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.

Kirchenfenster von OTGO
exhibition view:‚UNENDLICH‘ 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.

Nummer von OTGO
exhibition view:‚UNENDLICH‘ KUNSTVEREIN KONSTANZ
INFINITE 04–15 acrylic on canvas 200 x 100 cm each
Nummer
exhibition view:‚UNENDLICH‘ KUNSTVEREIN KONSTANZ
INFINITE 04–15 acrylic on canvas 200 x 100 cm eachm

Those 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 deciphered.

Ger Installation
exhibition view:‚UNENDLICH‘ KUNSTVEREIN KONSTANZ

The 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.

Kirchenfenster von OTGO
exhibition view:‚UNENDLICH‘ 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 comparison.


Triptych WHITE by OTGO 2015, acryl on canvas, 200 x 300 cm
exhibition view:‚UNENDLICH‘ KUNSTVEREIN KONSTANZ
Triptych WHITE by OTGO 2014–2015, acryl on canvas, 200 x 300 cm
(200 x 75 cm, 200 x 150 cm and 200 x 75 cm)

A 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 industry. 

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.

Eröffnung der Ausstellung UNENDLICH von OTGO. Kuntverein Konstanz
Vernissage: ‚UNENDLICH‘ KUNSTVEREIN KONSTANZ
(„infinite“ Art Association Constance)

Eröffnung der Ausstellung UNENDLICH von OTGO. Kuntverein Konstanz
Vernissage: ‚UNENDLICH‘ KUNSTVEREIN KONSTANZ

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Sources:

Boehm, Gottfried: Der Grund. Über das ikonische Kontinuum, in: Ders./ Burioni, Matteo (ed.): Der Grund. Das Feld des Sichtbaren, München 2012, p. 29-93.
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, 24.11.2020.
Ershuu, Otgonbayar: BLUE. Ausstellungskatalog [exhibition catalogue], Ulaanbaatar Mongolei, 2016.
Homepages of the artist and  Dr. Renate Bauwe
www.otgo.info, mongolian-art.de, 24.11.2020.
artist interview of OTGO with Andrea Gamp 09/19/2019 at the Art Association Constance.

artist interview of OTGO with Andrea Gamp  02/12/2020 in
Constance.
Lauter, Rolf: Otgonbayar Ershuu. Antarctic Panorama
www.mongolian-art.de 11/24/2020
Lorenz, Ulrike: Ershuu, Otgonbayar. White
www.mongolian-art.de, 11/24/2020
Pichler, Wolfram: Zur Kunstgeschichte des Bildfeldes, in: Boehm, Gottfried/ Burioni, Matteo (eds.): Der Grund. Das Feld des Sichtbaren, München 2012, p. 440-473.



 


 





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