speaking objects and materials in
CONTEMPORARY ART OF MONGOLIA IV
It is often said that Mongolia is a land of contrasts. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Mongolian contemporary art, a curious discipline that exists on the verge of both tradition and modernity and nature and industry. This dichotomy is at the heart of the fourth “Contemporary Art of Mongolia” exhibition, an annual celebration of Mongolian contemporary art hosted by 976 Art Gallery.
At the entrance, one is greeted by a serene installation by Batzorig Dugersuren, an amalgam of nature at its most peaceful as drops of water descend one by one through a peculiar wooden structure. At close inspection, the work reveals its more violent, post-modern side – the syringe-like wooden form is composed of small scraps of wood reminiscent of cut-down tree stumps, and the artificial waterfall seems to illustrate the very shortcomings of man-made objects, however natural-looking they may be.
Bazo’s work is directly juxtaposed with Jantsankhorol Erdenebayar’s “hybrid sculptures”. If Bazo mostly relies on organic matter found in nature, Jantsa prefers to work with man-made industrial materials – polyurethane foam, plastic tubing, scotch tape, even some discarded legs of an old office chair. Yet both artists seem to want to replicate nature at its most vulnerable.
This juxtaposition is further highlighted by Ochirbold Ayurzana’s ephemeral sculpture of a goat’s head on an iron wire. It is an absurd object in itself, yet it seems to aptly depict mankind’s obsessive desire to create and procreate. Although Ochirbold had first become known for his highly stylized steel sculptures, he seems to relish the chaotic as well – in his performance piece for this exhibition, he randomly shoots metal powder towards an empty magnetized canvases arranged on the wall, which means the final look of the work is entirely up to the basic laws of nature.
On the other hand, Enkhbold Togmidshirev’s work on canvas is as far from chaotic as possible. At first glance, it looks very minimalist – a square canvas divided into four more squares, each a particular shade of beige and gray. Each square has a particular texture and composition due to different materials used: in this case, horse hair, felt, ash and tripe. Enkhbold masterfully appropriates these elements of traditional Mongolian lifestyle to create highly modern works of art.
Enkhtaivan Ochirbat also makes use of everyday-use organic materials, such as sheep wool. In his body of work, sheep wool represents the epitome of Mongolian nomadic tradition, while western influences are depicted by foreign substances, such as coffee beans. In contrast, Munkhbolor Ganbold’s mixed media paintings again make use of industrial materials to create what the artists calls urban landscapes – colorful canvases that are punctured by rusty pipes and plastic tubes as well as ruptured figures delineated by pops of color. Mongolians have always been very tactile people, and this reliance on materials and substances to represent abstract concepts is a highly specific feature of Mongolian contemporary art.
Bayartsetseg Dashdondov’s installation/performance entitled “Secret History of the Mongols” is the most spiritual work of the exhibition. It relies on a number of sacred objects to create a transcendental space for meditation and reflection. Although named after the most fundamental text in Mongolian history and culture, Bayartsetseg’s work seems to defer to the oral tradition of the Mongols, one that relies on objects and materials to weave a narrative through the ages.
“Contemporary Art of Mongolia IV” exhibition is on display at 976 Art Gallery through April 20, 2016.
April 4, 2016