June 29 Ulaanbaatar

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On the way to our exhibition we walked into the city from our apartment and visited the newspaper office, Mongol Messenger and the editor said my story will be published tomorrow but without a bionic of my name as story was about me so really I just wrote our story. The UB doesn’t seemed to have published the second story I wrote so its a pity a whole story wasted. Indra asked me to write a story of impressions of Mongolia to be published after Nardam. I will have time to return home and reflect on the past seven or eight weeks

We also visited one of Tugsoo’s artist friends who had the largest private studio I have yet seen in UB. He has been exhibiting in many countries, good money for his work and has large, bright spacious apartment gallery. He had invited us to visit at the opening,

It was another full Ulaanbaatar day with many people visiting the gallery and one other tv interview for Eagle TV and another newspaper. The TV was on one hour after they came and repeated at 11.30pm. We caught the late viewing and it was quite a long story with many paintings and comments by all of us but mostly Tugsoo speaking over our voices.

There are many Mongolian artists who come to gallery and want to have connections with Australia, or have been to Australia. We seem to be gathering a growing number of name cards and I am all but out of business cards.

The weather is getting hot. The elections have been called in favor of the democratic party but with some disputes. Apparently there were some greens seat held.

We left the gallery in the late afternoon and attended an opening of Korean and Mongol art at the history museum. This is where our last show was held. Suurel opened this show. Anyway, we went off to the children’s Park and saw a traditional dance and music show and later dinner with the Koreans. Many speeches later we were invited to exhibit with the group next year in Korea.

We will see…

It is not hard to find an opening or performance in Ulaanbastar. There is at any onetime an array of artistic activities to see. Tourist season is also hitting yo as the artists hit the streets with. Bundles of art in folders to sell tourists for a reduced price and because you are good customer, even a better price. They stand in streets and at cultural venue doorways. It’s all part of the color that is Mongolia.

Just thought I would add this pic from the Gobi desert…

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Desert Sharing III

The DESERT SHARING III project Exhibition opened last night at the UMA gallery in Ulaanbaatar Mongolia. It was opened by David Lawson, the Consular General and Trade Commissioner for Australia who has announced the Desert Sharing Project is now officially part of the Australian and Mongolian’s 40 year celebration of Consular Relations.

The exhibition was well attended by the artists of Mongolia and other foreign visitors. Many speeches were made, mostly in Mongolian and music played.

For this showing of the Desert Sharing project Dr. J. Saruulbyan was invited to exhibit hs work too.
Saruul is the Mongolians History Museum Director and a fine writer, poet and painter who comes from Khenti aimag. It was due to his invitation we had our last exhibition Desert Sharing II at the museum. Of that he had been impressed we had gone to the far north east of Mongolia to work in his country. Most city Mongolians these days have roots in the countryside and have deep connections with their land. The pride of place is strong in Saruul’s work and when he talks of country.

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Ulaanbaatar and Desert Sharing

We are still here in Ulaanbaatar and the weather seems to be improving daily as summer emerges.

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Our exhibition is drawing to an end tomorrow, and now we are beginning to get some media attention. Today a journalist came to visit the show and was so impressed she thought we needed more attention. Not long after we returned home Tugsoo received a phone call and the message we would be on the 3.30 Eagle TV news. We had 15 minutes to sit and watch our exhibition and hear our names in Mongolian. Tomorrow we have to return to the gallery where there will be another TV crew to interview us and apparently other newspapers are now interested. The story I wrote for the Mongol Messenger is also to be published this coming Friday.

Although it seems a little late it is better now than never and hopefully good publicity for our next show in June after the Gobi.

The national elections are coming up soon and this is also always a bad time for arts publicity, anywhere in the world. And especially here at the moment when there is much tension on the ground between the nomadic country people and the new industrial and mining companies.

We have noticed the difference, or is it just coincidence? While there are wonderful people we have been meeting there are others in the street that look at us as intruders. I dot remember this happening on our previous trip. It is helpful in understanding how new Australians and visitors must fell at times when they are not tolerated by a minority of our population.

Our friends say that here the difference between the rich and poor is widening, as in other western societies. I am aware of more people on the streets collecting bottles. There are also many one person street stalls selling nuts or offering the passerby an opportunity to weigh themselves on a set of scales. The warmer weather is bringing out the entrepreneur. Clearly there is much poverty in Ulaanbaatar now. In contrast can be seen in the numerous multistory buildings and flash cars on the road. There are car yards all over the place selling new or second hand Japanese imports; with the right hand drive instead of left as the rule is here. It would make sense for Mongolia to change the law and drive on the right like the majority of their cars.

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These photographs were taken this evening when we met a friend at the Blue Sky Tower for dinner. The Blue building that dominates the inner city is today working as a hotel with several businesses and restraunt. Two years ago when we were here it was unused, condemned because of the danger of pieces of glass falling. We had arrived early for dinner and took a look at the view from the top floor Restraunt. It was magnificent to see from the 23rd floor the road map laid out. Below us. And the view of high rise apartments reaching out to the hills and the amount of residential development on the outlying hills and valleys.

Still in Ulaanbaatar

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A few more Ulaanbaatar images. Spent a little time in exhibition today meeting some people we met here a couple of years ago. Another trip to the Black Market and the wonderful fabric stalls. The market is such a mix of everything of food, clothing, all your ger needs, antique jewllery and anything else you can think of. It’s just the thickness of the traffic chaos getting in and out. The black market is definitely worth a visit or two and where there are bargains compared to the city stores. People move through the isles here like they do on r the roads; squeeze through any gap and not worried about manners or social rules. This is all that makes the place vibrant as well as the adrenal rush of needing to be totally aware of you bags and pockets.

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.

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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.