A Piece of Mongolian Art

I have had this painting for nearly a year but it only recently found its way on the wall of my living room, simply because I couldn’t decide where to hang it.

It is the work of a young Mongolian artist who moved to Hungary to pursue a PhD course. We first met online, when I was doing some research before my planned field-trip to Mongolia in 2018. Then I accidentally bumped into her on a corridor of the University of Fine Arts in Ulaanbaatar, where I went to pick up my freshly printed publication.

She then helped me even more with her contacts in the art world. Mongolia feels like a truly small place, as if everyone knew each other. The land is vast, but the population is really small and news seem to spread the old way. By word of mouth. In reality it is through Facebook, messenger and the likes but you don’t feel it. There is still a personal touch to it.

One day, during an earlier trip, an artist unexpectedly appeared at my then workplace, the Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts, asking to speak with me. This person was a well-known artist and the news of me looking for interviewees reached him too so he decided to find me and help my work. Imagine as a famed Western artist goes after you to offer their help. Hah!

I always wanted a piece of Mongolian art, and when I learnt that this lovely artist is in Hungary, I asked if she would paint something for me while she is here. She agreed. A few days later I watched in her social media posts as a new painting was emerging. Already from the first strokes I knew it’s mine. I asked if she would sell it. She said yes, she wanted to offer it to me anyway.

The painting shows a couple in love, but there is more to it. They are wearing the traditional clothing (дээл), and the representation is typical of contemporary Mongolian artists – stylized and colourful. The woman’s head is adorned with a motif that may or may not remind you of an antler. That is an antler indeed and it refers to the origin of the Mongolians. The Secret History of the Mongols (Монголын нууц товчоо), a source thought to be from the early 13th century, which is available in English translation too, says that the ancestors of Mongolians were a grey wolf and a beautiful deer. The deer represents beauty, and is strongly connected to Shamanism, playing a significant role in arts and daily life in Mongolia until today.

The idea of the painting was born when the artist, moving to Budapest, saw how openly couples express their feelings on the street, which is not so common in Mongolia. There is actually a real couple in Budapest who were the models for this work. And this is the very first piece painted by Solongo Sudar in Hungary. How cool is that!

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