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EBRD hosts art from across the Gobi Desert

 Claire Ricklefs www.ebrd.com

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s London headquarters have been temporarily transformed by a colourful and diverse exhibition of contemporary works by Mongolian and international artists whose work is inspired by the rich culture and history of Mongolia.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’s 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 EUR 1 billion in Mongolia and Mr Freeman took the opportunity to express his hopes for even greater future cooperation between Mongolia and the EBRD.

From traditional to post-modern

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. Nurmaajav also uses traditional materials such as “earth paint” and gouache, a form of water paint.

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 Odgarig 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.”

Role reversal

While René’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 this year. Some of Batbileg’s work will also feature at Freddie Mercury’s Montreux Memorial Day celebration in Switzerland later this year. Batbileg is also well-known for his decorative hand-woven tapestries whose striking colours and patterns cannot fail to impress.

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.

The exhibition was organised by the EBRD in close collaboration with Unurmaa Janchiv at the Art Café, a division of translation and interpreting company Lingua Global in London. The Art Café donates a proportion of the proceeds from art sales to supplement the cost of educational workshops on Mongolian culture at schools in the UK and to promote Mongolian art and culture in theUK and Europe.

A real patron of Mongolian art, Unurmaa says that after living in the UK for over a decade, she 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!”

The exhibition will be on display at EBRD headquarters in London until 24 June. For more information and free admission please contact Aza Ulziitogtokh.

For more information about any of the artists contact Unurmaa Janchiv.         

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