Interesting Times

Mongolia is undergoing many changes and this is a very interesting time to be here. Our last and first visit was in 2010. There was a sense of chaos then in regard to traffic and I note most people who comment on Mongolia usually write about the traffic; the seemingly distrust and disregard to road rules. Red lights then and now are taken as being non existent and pedestrian crossings as places to attempt to cross the road. India comes to mind. However, I suspect there is change on the way too with the traffic chaos. Even Unench was booked yesterday for illegal parking. If there is any sniff of alcohol on the breadth there is suspension of license. Rules are in place and now it looks as if they are being enforced. We are noting more cars pulled over by police with notebooks. There are a few more red lights installed, but even then they often do not make sense… Particularly on intersections where you would expect lights to help you make a right turn.

There are also visible concerns about the western influence on the Mongolian ways. It is illegal for advertising signs to be written in English; all signs are supposed to be written in Mongolian Cyrillic.there are many signs appearing throughout Ulaanbaatar in written in English. Mostly the say Internet Cafe or something to do with fashion or cafe or restaurant. No idea how this is policed or what the fines are. Now only the elderly seem to walk streets in traditional deep clothing. Young people are wearing western clothing and they appear to dress only in traditional clothing when we see the, performing in a concert.

History Museum Ulaanbaatar




Quiet today today. We rested this morning after the big opening celebrations last night. Prepared a box to take to the local post office to send home. It cost 17,000.00tg a kilo to send to Australia by post, that is about $12.00 Australian dollars. Cheap in comparison to $40 in excess baggage at the airport.

After lunch with Tugsoo in her apartment and pizza prepared by daughter in law we headed back to gallery to stay with exhibits for a while. There was a small celebration and flag ceremony in our gallery with a presentation of Mongolian flag that had been to the arctic.

I have also posted some more photographs from last and some of the exquisite costumes held in the museum collection. The history of Mongolian in costume is wonderful, particularly the collections of ancient jewelry worn by men and women. Much has an early Turkish influence.

There is a great interest in my silk work in the exhibition. I sold another piece of silk today. There have been artists using the technique of making marbling like efforts on silk but not true painting as I have been doing. It has been accepted even by the established men artists as something new.



Desert Sharing II Opening at the History Museum UB Monglia



The exhibition was a great success tonight. We had all of the ceremony Mongolian Exhibitions present. The labels were finally translated and printed a couple of hours before the opening and the last thing before people arrived was the timber floors were washed and polished. Once the official museum closing time has passed out came the carpet for the foyer outside the gallery and a red tape with blue rosettes was placed at the gallery rooms entrance. My video was playing on the tv outside of the gallery, images from wild places from the Antarctic, Australian dirt to the arctic, Norway and Mongolia. Guests began to arrive and speeches made. I gave a small talk about our Project of Desert Sharing and how I met Tugsoo in Australia, our travels together into the Flinders Ranges and later Mongolia and our continued friendship and Desert Sharing project. After each sentence I had to stop while the assistant director translated my words into Mongolian. Unfortunately the director of the museum, J. Saarul is in hospital and was unable to come. He is very worried about missing our show. It all went smoothly, lots of photos taken and people were interested in our work and the way we perceived Mongolia. We had many invitations to people’s homes and another gallery.

No photos to post as I was too busy talking. Later, I may be able to post pics, one on the Australian girls assisting the museum took photos with my camera.



Desert Sharing Exhibition Set up

We had a great day setting up the exhibition at the History Museum in Ulaanbaatar Mongolia yesterday. We had two lovely Mongolian women and three Australian Museum volunteers assisting us. Our works hang under the Mongolian and Australian flag. The museum has supplied several show cases for the work as well as good hanging wall space. I have paintings of Australia and Mongolia as well as silk paintings, photography and small gouache studies. Mervyn has a collection of gouache paintings and Tugsoo is showing a series of oil on canvas paintings. Unfortunately the director of the museum who invited us and was to open the show is in hospital. The assistant director will now be opening the show this evening and I am to give a speech in English with a translator. This will be interesting.




Ulaanbaatar May 26

We are still in Ulaanbaatar planning our first exhibits at the History Museum to Open on Monday May 28. We have been back to gallery to measure walls and study the available showcases. There are some Australians who will be assisting us through Austrade. We have sent in details of work so labels can be made and ordered large posters.

I have posted an article I have been asked to write for the Mongol Messenger newspaper about our exhibition.

Our time in UB is as always very busy. Tugsoo has been taking our out to all sorts of Opening Ceremonies and cultural events. yesterday we attended an Opening at the lovely UMA gallery with an exhibition by Mongolian artists. Some pictures are posted below. Mongolians rivière their artists much more than we do in Australian. They appear very generous and respectful of the colleagues of their fellow artists and honor them with speeches and most often gifts of flowers and plagues.

At each theatre event we have been too including the wonderful Japanese singers we watched last night there is an array of speeches. Often the speeches will be in two or more languages. There many interpreters translating speeches from Mongolian into English or Chinese or as last night Japanese. Wow! Those Acapulco singers were so good. Six of them singing the instruments to the songs and it was hard to believe they did not have instruments or recorded music. They were students.

We have done a lot of walking around into and home to the city. We hailed a taxi after the show and that was entertaining and a somewhat dangerous experience to end a very long day. Being Friday evening, like most places on a balmy night (yes the temperature has soured since the snow a couple do days ago) the traffic was out in usual Mongolian chaos and seemed to be at full sipped dodge-em-car pace. There are road rules but no one obeys them and it’s each for their own at full speed ahead. We had to take the long route home because it was impossible to take some turns; only option to follow the mass.


Desert Sharing Exhibition – History Museum Ulaanbaatar

Desert Sharing: Two Women, Two Deserts, Two Cultures, One Friendship

In 2006 Mongolian artist Tugsoyun Sodnom travelled to Australia and met Melbourne artist Jenni Mitchell. They soon realized they shared a love of wild places; both previously spending much of their artistic pursuits and journeys into the deserts and countryside of their respective countries.

Excited to discover a kindred spirit in each other Jenni invited Tugsoyun along on a painting trip into the South Australian Flinders Rangers with partner artist Mervyn Hannan.

The three artists set off for a journey to Parachilna in the Northern Flinders Ranges. Togsuyon was surprised how many features of this rugged part of Australia reminded her of parts of countryside Mongolia. The wide expanse of horizon, the dry rugged cliffs and sandy soil had a familiarity; except for the fauna and vegetation which was fascinating in its difference and abundance for Togsuyon. Together as they journeyed the artists swapped the words for each feature of landscape and began learning and sharing customs. Even the use of soft dry pastel was a new experience for Tugsoyun who was more familiar with an oil pastel commonly used by Mongolian artists. The brilliant intensity of the хех тэнгэр; blue sky, was the same. As Tugsoyun shared stories of her beloved Mongolia Jenni and Mervyn vowed to visit and the project of Desert Sharing was born.

Days were spent painting together under the shade of ancient red river gum trees growing from the stony beds of the wide dry desert rivers. The gentle sound of the diamond dove call contrasted with the harsh screech of the many large flocks of white cockatoos along the river banks. And in the evening back at camp the artists marveled together at the spectacle of the wild sun fire as it set below the horizon backed by the beauty of a soft pink and mauve light.

On return from South Australia to Jenni’s Eltham studio Togsoyun and Jenni worked for several weeks side by side listening to the music of Mongolia, and sometimes that of Australia. The Mongolian traditional music seemed to fill the studio appropriately with a sound for the artists to paint the large canvases that followed. ‘I am usually more comfortable working alone, and yet with Tugsoyun sharing my space was easy, our work is quite different in appearance, but the essence derives from the same influence; that of the spirit of the landscape in its great expansiveness or the small fine detail as that of a small plant or composition of a stone.

The culmination of the three artists Flinders Ranges work came together in an exhibition held soon after at the Eltham Montsalvat Art Colony which was officially opened by the then Consulate for Mongolia, Peter Sloane who recognized the importance of the three artists embarking on an their cultural exchange in partnership, ideas and friendship.

Although Mitchell and Hannan were unable to join Sodnom until several years later; by invitation they were able to ship some paintings to Mongolia to be shown in two invitation exhibitions in Ulaanbaatar.

It was not until 2010 that Jenni and Mervyn embarked on their first visit to Mongolia; and their artist friends home city Ulaanbaatar.

Again the three artists were able to travel and work together. The first trip from Ulaanbaatar was made to Kharhorin; old capital city of Mongolia where once more they set up their paints and made sketches and small paintings of the Mongolian countryside.
‘The Mongolian Steppe appeared endless. In comparison to the breadth of an Australian desert landscape Mongolia’s countryside seemed even larger. The great Steppe plains interspersed by outcrops of green hills behind which lay further vast plains of countryside seemed to have no end’.

The fenceless countryside of Mongolia; a ger camp with family, herdsmen and satellite dish contrasts against an Australian with collections of tin sheds and outback humpies. Thousands of kilometers of fence posts and wire divide Australia into parcels of ownership. Nowadays the Australian outback station is more likely to be owned by an international syndicate and use light aircraft and bikes to muster stock that was once tendered by stockmen on horses.
The presence of the eagle is important in both landscapes: a symbol of the power and fragility of life.

You do not need to travel far across the Mongolian Steppe to find evidence of human life. From seemingly nowhere will appear a herdsman on a horse, or a small settlement of gers, a relic of a past Buddhist temple, an earlier carved stone or a fresh blue silk offering laid upon an Ovoo. In both our countryside’s bleached animal bones abound. These are among our countries differences and similarities and the subject of our paintings and photography.

The artists travelled together a second trip into the North Eastern Khentii Amig region to experience a different kind of landscape. This time, in Chinggis Khan birth country the landscape was more hilly with great open plains and rivers. The further north the more vegetation and birch forest appeared as a contrasting subject matter. Timber building constructions instead of Gers and a lot of water and swamp land to traverse. The abundance of wildflowers was fascinating to the Australians who were familiar with many of them at home as cultivated garden varieties.

The three artists have been preparing work over the past years from these journeys to present as the continuing story of Desert Sharing. Works from these share journeys will be on exhibition at two venue. The first exhibition opens at the History Museum May 28 Desert sharing ii and continues for one week, the second show in Ulaanbaatar, desert Sharing iii at the Union of Mongolian Artists gallery commencing June 35 for one week.

Selected Australian and Mongolian paintings, drawings, photographs and silk textiles will be presented across the two venues.

Each of the artists have travelled far in their pursuit of wild landscape including the Antarctic, The Arctic, Norway Africa, Europe as well as Australia and Mongolia.

The project will return to Australia In 2013 when Tugsoyun plans to return to Australia and continue the exchange of culture, landscape and exhibitions.