Nomin Bold’s (Mongolia b.1982) work is characterised by its deployment of the compositional techniques, materials and imagery of Tibetan Buddhist tangka painting, which the artist uses to deal with the contradictions of contemporary life and moments from Mongolian history. Particularly notable is her use of collaged pages from Mongolian scriptures and gold-leafing, in addition to her extremely fine brushwork and dynamic composition. In Labyrinth game 2012, Nomin depicts the complex urban geography of the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar as a literal maze, rendered flat on the canvas as if viewed from above. A deity occupies the centre of the maze, surrounded by a host of dramatic, romantic and comedic scenarios.

Bold’s work is an example of contemporary Mongol zurag, a critical revival of a painterly idiom developed during the Mongolian independence movement of the early twentieth century. Characterised by its ultra-fine brushwork, bright colours, flattened perspective and themes drawn from everyday life, Mongol zurag (literally, ‘Mongolian painting’) synthesised elements of Tibetan Buddhist tangka painting, Chinese guohua and the Khitan equestrian art of the Liao dynasty (907–1125). It emerged to address themes of secular nationalism at the time of Mongolia’s declaration of independence from the Manchu Qing empire after China’s Xinhai Revolution of 1911.

As Mongolia came under Soviet influence, Mongol zurag was subsumed into the officially mandated socialist realist style that would dominate Mongolian culture from the bloody Stalinist purges of the 1930s until the Democratic Revolution of 1990. Established as a subject at the Mongolian University of Arts and Culture as Mongolia sought to reconstitute its national identity in the late 1990s, Mongol zurag has been adopted by a passionate new generation of artists who find within it the means of addressing the contradictions of their lives at a time of unprecedented urbanisation, financial precariousness and competing cultural influences.

Exhibited in 'The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art' (APT8) | 21 Nov 2015 – 10 Apr 2016


  • Title: Labyrinth game
  • Creator: Nomin Bold
  • Date Created: 2012
  • Location: Mongolia
  • Physical Dimensions: 160 x 103cm
  • Provenance: Purchased 2015 with funds from Ashby Utting through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation. Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
  • Subject Keywords: APT8, Mongolia, Nomin Bold
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: © The artist
  • External Link: More about Zurag painting and Nomin Bold
  • Medium: Synthetic polymer paint and gold leaf on canvas

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