The exhibition which attracted distinguished members of the Mongolian community including the Mongolian ambassador to London, was officially opened on Wednesday 8 June to the spherical sounds of a traditional Mongolian fiddle player and a throat singer.
Welcoming staff and guests to the reception, EBRD First Vice President Varel Freeman commented on the extraordinary creativity and variety of art on display which also reflected his personal impressions of the country and its incredibly rich cultural history. To date, the EBRD has invested over €1 billion in Mongolia and Mr Freeman took the opportunity to express his hopes for even greater future cooperation between Mongolia and the EBRD.
‘Mongolian art is vibrantly alive’
"Our aim was to introduce the London audience to the brilliance and originality of contemporary Mongolian Art," explains EBRD banker Aza Ulziitogtokh, who helped bring the exhibition to the Bank. "Mongolian art is vibrantly alive. Emotions are expressed in a kaleidoscope of colour, movement and space, which feature strongly in paintings by Ochirbatyn Enkhtaivan, Monkhoryn Erdenebayar and Dolgorjavyn Bold."
One of the most respected contemporary Mongolian artists, Choindongiin Khurelbaatar also focuses on traditional Mongolian themes such as landscapes, still lives and history alongside his fascination with the mystery of Shamanism which remains active in the remote parts of the Steppes. His technical brilliance is evident in his precise paintings which are executed in soft tones and gentle brushstrokes.
Another ancient Mongolian tradition is continued by young artist Munkhgerel Odgarig, whose incredibly intricate and elaborate paper cuttings have an almost statuesque quality. Her works reflect peoples’ aspirations and hopes, including bravery and good fortune.
Among the more traditional yet younger artists displayed at the exhibition is Nurmaajav Tuvdendori, voted Mongolian artist of the year in 2009. For her ink paintings she uses a spontaneous and very rapid technique, resulting in disarmingly simple yet evocative and sensual characters. Ms Tuvdendori also uses traditional materials such as “earth paint” and gouache, a form of water paint.
From traditional to ‘Post’-modern art
Otgonbayar Tod’s style, on the other hand, is more contemporary. He uses bold and vibrant colours inspired by Mongolia’s blue sky. Rather intriguingly, he used to be the chief artist of the Mongolian Postal Service where he was involved in the design and production of over 500 Mongolian stamps.
Qualified lawyer Odgarig Sereeter enjoys researching and painting important historical figures, such as Genghis Khan and warriors of the Mongolian Empire. Perhaps not such an obvious choice are depictions of the indigenous people of North America. But Mr Sereeter has researched and is intrigued by the many similarities he uncovered between native Americans and Mongolians, including the tradition of throat singing.
A passion for throat singing is also what has transformed the work of René Polak a graduate of the Royal Academy of Art in Holland. "I used to be a very conservative artist: I painted what I saw, such as landscapes and animals", he explains, "but listening to Mongolian music, particularly folk-rock band Altan Urag and their contemporary take on traditional Mongolian throat singing, has inspired me to paint more magical, dream-like themes."
While Mr Polak's work is heavily influenced by a Mongolian band, Mongolian artist Batbileg Darjaa has devoted his latest exhibition to British rock band Queen, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary. Some of Batbileg’s work will also feature at the Freddie Mercury’s Montreux Memorial Day celebration in Switzerland later this year.
Upon visiting the exhibition, Freddie Mercury’s sister, Kashmira Cooke, praised Mr Darjaa’s work and expressed her surprise about the connection between Queen, Mongolia and the EBRD.
Instrumental in bringing this connection to life is Mongolian art patron, Unurmaa Janchiv from the Art Café at translation and interpreting company Lingua Global in London who helped organise the exhibition at the EBRD. The Art Café promotes Mongolian art and culture in the UK and Europe and donates a proportion of the proceeds from art sales to supplement the cost of educational workshops on Mongolian culture at schools in the UK.
After living in the UK for over a decade, Ms Janchiv is keen to give something back to her country. "I want to support our young talented artists and to show people what Mongolia has to offer!"
By Claire Ricklefs
For more information about any of the artists contact Unurmaa Janchiv at the Art Café.
The exhibition will be on display at EBRD headquarters in London until 24 June. For more information and free admission please contact Aza Ulziitogtokh.