Critical Review
Text by Curator: Su Wei Writes Nashunbatu

In Other Places:
The Painting Practice of Nashunbatu

Text / Su Wei

The exhibition, In Other Places: The Painting Practice of Nashunbatu, features a selection of works that showcase the painting practice of Nashunbatu since his relocation to Germany in 2000. These paintings demonstrate a peculiar synthesis: Nashunbatu has simultaneously applied an array of painterly techniques and modes of expression on a single canvas that he has mastered or continued to explore. Whether it is his realist and figurative approach, his lyrical language and surrealist imageries imbued with traditional overtones or the indelible visual memories of the picture books and Mongolian landscapes from his childhood, it became difficult for us to pinpoint the artist’s formal training background and stylistic preference. At the same time, it is also hard to imagine how Nashunbatu commands the ability to incorporate a variety of painterly “dialects” into his repertoire with ease. Though such repertoire lacks coherence, its multilayered characteristic and the tension stemming from within, which proliferated with incompatible and heterogenous elements, shape his paintings into an inscrutable and incommensurable practice.

Nashunbatu is obsessed with depicting the surface textures of natural subjects such as deserts, skies, waves, dirt, meadows, and rocks, which pin against the awkward tiny figures with blurred physiognomies and strange objects in his pictures, rendering the conventionally  harmonious landscape genre anxious and unreadable. In his compositions, he would often invent forms/figures that are seemingly organic at first glance, but they all find their origins within his outlandish imagination. He places them within fictive spaces that defy the principle of linear perspective, suffusing his works with an eerie, apocalyptic atmosphere. These disquieting figures—often introduced after the overall compositions are completed—exacerbate the already complex, discrepant balance between colors, brushstrokes, and lines in these compositions and transform them into a mode of cultural critique. The artist here has clearly rejected mystical and shamanistic reading. For him, these forms are merely apparatuses for compositional manipulation ; in addition to resisting any possible narratives in his pictures, they also serve as a form of aesthetic critique. 

What informs the foundation of Nashunbatu’s paintings? After moving away from the context of late 20th-century China, what contributed to the participation of his paintings in a new aesthetic discourse? Nashunbatu, who has been living in Germany for a while, made no effort to hide his interest in the “middle ground” and “multiculturalism” that transcend the influence of contexts. The embodiment of such interest manifests in his painting by negating contexts, identities, and any accompanying factors, national or regional. One can assume that the logic of his paintings is impossible to establish under the visual tradition of the historical context, and it is precisely this impossibility that forms the basis of his practice. Nashunbatu’s command over the imaginative space in his compositions comes more from a pursuit of decontextualization and intuition. At the perilous cost of this freedom, he launches a critique of the image and the monistic language of painting.

When the New Leipzig School reemerged in the 1990s Germany, Nashunbatu did not directly partake in its immense, even overflowing critical stance but rather discovered an alternative aesthetic potential from its figurative expression. From today’s standpoint, it is obvious that Nashunbatu expects an aesthetic experience from painting, but not in the hermeneutic sense of “conscious-the act of painting-aesthetic.” He deliberately juxtaposes figurative elements with non-figurative forms, employing several techniques that allow these opposing two to engage in different dialogues. The audience experiences an incongruous, concrete-to-abstract pictorial space in which one’s expectation, informed by a conventional understanding of colors and forms, is shattered by the pictures’ incongruity. Although his compositions are fraught with surrealist uncanniness, this “surreality” is not the kind that was born out of realism under the context of the Chinese art scene, nor is it the European Surrealism that aims to explore the non-temporal psychological space. In Nashunbatu’s works, the narrative on which “surreality” relies halts right when it is about to unfold. Given their disconnection with other elements in the compositions, the alienation of the animals and figures becomes fairly discernable. The depth of their mental or psychological space seems to be caught in a state of unfolding, while the critical reflection on spatiality, color, figuration, abstraction, and the practicality of painting diverge the audience from the desired experience. In other words, aesthetic experience under the rendition of Nashunbatu presents itself as multifaceted. The picture and the mental and psychological space it entails are infinitely delayed by the critique and reconstruction of painting conventions he imbues into his compositions. The introduction and clash of multiple painting “dialects turns” the aesthetic experience here into an eternal act that happens in other places/absent.


Nashunbatu was born in Hangjin Banner, Ordos, Inner Mongolia in 1969. He graduated from the Fine Arts Department of Inner Mongolia Normal University in 1989. From 2000 to 2006, he studied at the University of Fine Arts in Braunschweig, Germany, where he was awarded the Scholarship of the Foundation for Cultural Heritage of Braunschweig (SBK) in 2006. 

Nashunbatu lives and works in Frankfurt am Main. He mainly works with contemporary oil paintings.

Current group exhibitions and solo exhibitions: Museum Abtei Liesborn, Liesborn, Germany; He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen, China; Busan International Art Festival, Korea; 021 International Art Fair, Shanghai, China; Kunststation Kleinsassen, Germany; Kiaf International Art Fair, Seoul, Korea; New Paintings, Huebner + Huebner Gallery, Frankfurt, Germany; Kunstmuseum Beida, Bitburg, Germany; Overseas Chinese Painting in Chinese Ink and Grassland Inner Mongolia Museum of Art, Hohhot, China; Forest. Wolf. Wilderness, Villa Rotter Museum, Germany, Conscious and Unconscious, Huebner + Huebner Gallery, Frankfurt; Nashunbatu Paintings, Schentana Art Museum, Inner Mongolia, China; Nashunbatu New Paintings, Yeimen Gallery, Beijing, China; Under the Dome, Art Museum, Huhhot, China; Searching for the Source - Ordos - Chinese Oil Painting Invitational Exhibition, Ordos Exhibition Center, China; NEW MASTERS, Galerie Jörg Heitz, Munich, Germany; A Wind-Up Bird on Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami, Frankfurt, Germany; Nashunbatu Paintings, Schentana Art Museum, Inner Mongolia, China; Nashunbatu New Painting, Galerie Eimen, Germany; A Wind-Up Bird on Norwegian Wood Haruki Murakami and Contemporary Art,Tel Aviv, Israel; Liebeslust Lebenslast, Schloss Corvey Palace, Germany; BS-VISITE, Braunschweig, Germany; Return, Exhibition Hall of Inner Mongolia Normal University Art Academy, Hohhot, China; China Inner Mongolia Normal University College of Art, Hohhot, China; Kaukosna, Ordos Art Museum, Ordos, China; ENT-DECKUNG, Schuebbe Ins., Dusseldorf, Germany.

Nashunbatu was born in 1969 in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China. He graduated from the Fine Arts Department of Inner Mongolia Normal University in 1989. From 2000 to 2006, he studied at the University of  Fine Arts in Braunschweig, Germany, Where he was awarded the Scholarship of the Foundation for Cultural Heritage of Braunschweig (SBK) in 2006. Currently lives and works in Frankfurt am Main, he mainly works with contemporary oil paintings. 

Formal analytic and thematic consideration of Nashunbatu’s work shows that the works articulate their quality at the two levels that are relevant to the medium of painting. A reflexive approach to the possibilities of painting after the end of painting, and a unique experience associatively legible at the thematic level, which can be read as a critical commentary on the current state of our relation to subject/self and the world, come together. The twin poles of the horizon of meaning in Nashun Nashunbatu’s art illustrates the potential of a contemporary approach to painting that interrelates a wide spectrum of relational fields and gives pictorial expression to virulent experiences of our condition as contemporary individuals.
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