Wednesday, 18 July 2012

DASHI NAMDAKOV: Ancestral Inspiration

Hidden in the gorgeous jewellery room of Halcyon Gallery, on the first floor of a great Georgian building in Bond Street, London (right across Sotheby's for those who know me), one finds the most unusual collection of pieces: the jewels made by Dashi Namdakov for what has been a most successful London season. It started on April 14th when his oversized Genghis Khan sculpture was unveiled in Marble Arch, followed with his debut exhibition A Nomad's Universe and continues with a series of minor ones at other Halcyon locations.

A lot has been written about his sculptures and specially the Genghis Khan but the jewellery has been kept secret, secluded in a private room, closed to the general public and available for private views only.

Dashi Namdakov was born in 1967 in Russia, in the Chita region of Siberia, close to the Chinese border. This is today, the Republic of Buryatia, on the shores of lake Baikal, a land with a strong Mongolian heritage where Buddhist religion and Shamanic mythology are tied. Dashi, who was the son of an accomplished local sculptor, grew up in surrounded by all these influences; he had a Buddhist education but as a teenager was diagnosed a severe illness and he believes he was cured by a shaman who reconnected him to his ancestors. It was after this episode when he abandoned his plans of becoming a sportsman and started studying art and training as an artist. He has achieved almost everything in terms of recognition in Russia and China; the Hermitage exhibition in 2010 (Nostalgia for Roots) sealing this period.

As a truly accomplished artist, Dashi Namdakov works both on a monumental scale (like the Marble Arch piece) as well as on miniature. An old school artist, he draws first hundreds of sketches before setting to work on volume. This is driven by his obsession with detail; Dashi started researching for the Genghis Khan topic in 2007, as Art Director for an epic movie "Mongol: The Rise to Power of Genghis Khan" when he designed not just the scenes and imaginary but every detail of weaponry and armours employed. He is also versatile in terms of the materials he can employ, he uses bronze, silver, gold, copper, wood, mammoth tusk, leather, horse hair and precious stones like pearls, rubies, sapphires, peridots and diamonds. One of the most impressive pieces at the Halcyon exhibition was a huge bull head carved in lapis lazuli with twisted horns made of gold!.

His main influence comes form the history of the Asian Nomadic empire, the mix between powerful warriors and imaginary creatures with ancient spirituality; yet his genius lies in his reinterpretation for the pieces have true modernity of form, regardless the subject matter. The Halcyon curators wrote about him that Dashi's "sculptures recall the intimacy and intricacy of heirloom jewellery"; although of very different aesthetics, his pieces reminded me of the masculinity of Sevan Bicakci's, for they are rough and quite aggressive sometimes, definitely warrior jewels or some kind of ancient shamanic symbols with secret meaning. After having spent quite a bit of time researching this artist, I still have the impression that there so much more to learn and so many other things that I would like to ask him; I am just glad he is now in London for a while!.