Zurag Insired Paintings

December 30, 2015

I’ve had a few months to process my trip to Mongolia and incorporate it’s inspiration into my work. As beautiful as the landscape was, I was most inspired by the art work I saw there. I went to two great museums, an awesome gallery, and a few monasteries and temples that all had great artwork ranging from contemporary to traditional. My favorite style of painting was the Zurag style which uses mineral pigments on cloth and combines unique artistic techniques and colors that produce a flat, decorative painting. The style is also characterized by its vibrancy, limited perspective and use of humor. With roots in ancient rock art that depict the life of hunters and herders, a common subject explored by artists in this genre is the life and ways of Mongolian people.




“One Day In Mongolia” by Marzan Sharav 1911-1919.

This is perhaps the most famous painting in Mongolia. It was painted with mineral paints on cloth and illuminates the many different aspects of Mongolian life.  It is at the Zanabazar Fine Arts Museum.




There is no vanishing point or perspective so regardless of distance, everything is shown in the same proportion. Very little research has been done on Mongolian zurag painting and the art form is virtually unknown worldwide due to its strong similarity to Tibetan Thangka Painting, Chinese Painting and other Asian Paintings.



Tsend-Ayush O - Hentii Aimag Negdel

I love this gouache piece by Tsend-Ayush.U done in 1986. My favorite part is the clouds and the absence of perspective – the ways the image was layered and stacked.  It is part of the collection at the Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery.

Aside from the artwork the most impressive part of Mongolian for me was the sky.  With the landscape being so open the sky, which was always filled with amazing clouds, became the focal point. But perhaps I am just really into clouds!




Here is another gouache painting I found by Tsend Ochir called “The Gathering of Skies”. It really depicts the unique layering of swirly clouds that I have only ever seen in Mongolia.







I was so influenced by this new style of art that I had to crate some new work incorporating some techniques.  Since most of the zurag paintings are done with pigmented paint or gouache, I thought that the flashe paint, which is very pigmented and flat, would work well in this style. And though the zurag paintings often depict scenes in their landscapes, I like my landscapes void of people. I did however incorporate the lack of perspective and came up with my own version of zurag inspired paintings:



Counting Beautiful Things, 24×24″, flashe on canvas



Laying in the Sun, 24×24″, flashe on canvas



Color of the Wind, 30×30″, flashe on canvas

So far I am having fun layering the paint, stacking the landscape features, and most importantly adding clouds!


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