Nashun Nashunbatu is a contemporary artist born in Inner Mongolia in 1969, best known for his paintings of landscapes in which he examines the relationship between man and nature. Artist graduated from university in Ordos, and earned graduate degrees in Germany. Today, he divides his time between his studios in Beijing, China and Frankfurt, Germany.
An ethnic Mongolian, Nashunbatu is fluent in the Mongolian language, as well as Chinese, English and German, and is representative of the latest artists from Mainland China emerging on to the international stage: Polymaths, well studied and well-travelled, and actively engaged with both Western and Chinese (and Mongolian) art history, literature and philosophical discussions; hence, deeply aware of current affairs on the local as well as international stage. Nashun’s exhibit history, especially in Europe and particularly in Germany, is extensive. He is currently preparing works for exhibits both in China and abroad. In 2012 and 2013 Nashunbatu’s works has been shown in solo exhibitions in museums in his native Inner Mongolia.
As an “Overseas Returnee” (part-time in China and full-time in Germany), and like many of his generation, Nashunbatu, often finds himself in the awkward position of being more familiar with the European art scene than he is with China’s contemporary art world discourse. As a relative outsider to the Chinese art scene, Nashunbatu, both ethnically and by virtue of his pursuits, is naturally more cosmopolitan and more prone to deviation from China’s established social order in his artistic practice. As such, his successes and failures as an artist in China are particularly representative of the diversity and unpredictability that typifies the group of highly individualised avant-garde artists working in and around Beijing. This lack of adherence to one dominant aesthetic or philosophical approach liberates his creative impulses and pursuits, while at the same time creating obstacles to easy understanding and categorisation of his artistic practice.
His transformative experiences and broad knowledge base, however inadvertently, inevitably led to a breaking away from the norm, altering how Nashunbatu experiences not only his native China, but also the world. His paintings, primarily horizontal/land-based imagery inspired by Mongolian landscapes, could be categorized as traditional art making or “classical avant-garde” of a realistic-representational mode. However, this would be an over-simplification. The formal language he adopts is as complex as the artist’s experience, and his rendering of the contemplative, passive and infinite characteristics of landscapes while evident, are only one facet of the artist’s view of the world.
More precisely, he relies on familiar imagery and painterly techniques, to “disarm” viewers into a false sense of familiarity and neo-classical comfort. Then, he “hits” his viewers with a masterly array of painting styles, using primarily dark color palettes of thinly applied paint, more typical of ink painting, he affects an ominous mood, often alluding to danger and disaster, while tiny lone figures perform mysterious and random tasks. Here, “real life” is never the artist’s subject domain, and bits of representational imagery are more surrealist than realist.
In alluding to, without aiming to depict, reality, Nashunbatu’s paintings invite the viewer to embark on a “process of aesthetic experience”, that transcends formal image production of figures, landscapes, and color wash on canvas. Instead, he opens image production to new possibilities that record the “uneasy relation” between Western and Asian trends and visual art discourse. And most importantly, he asserts the continued status of painting – and figuration – as critical elements of the theoretical discourse, deserving of continued critical analysis, as he reaches for answers beyond facile rejections of traditional image production. The potential of painting is what we see in the latest works of Nashunbatu.