“ We shouldn’t break away from our roots, from
the forces of nature. Earth, water, air…love of the elements
is not something that can be taught. One has to feel them
and draw strength from them.”- Dashi Namdakov.
Dashi Namdakov is talented artist who uses his classical training in the traditions of the Russian school of sculpture to create unique works that are steeped in the spirit of Buddism, or rather Lamanism, a religion practiced in Tibet, Mongolia, and Buryatia. His images and themes owe much to the mythological traditions of shamanism, the beliefs of Turkic peoples of Siberia and the epic songs and fairytales of the Buryats, as well as to the arts of ancient China and Japan. However, It would be incorrect to style Namdakov as a Buddist artist. His works are products of the fertile and subtle imagination of someone who is still at one with his own people, their culture and beliefs, their homeland in the taiga and on the shores of the great Lake Baikal.
The world of the imagination invented or “dreamed up” by the artist nevertheless has a tangible presence. His many warriors in their elaborate armor, with every tiny detail lovingly designed and put in place by the sculptor, have an authentic feel about them; the frightening and mystical shamanic rites are in equal measure fabulous and executed with impressive precision.
Namdakov’s works have an “ethnic” character. The names of his sculptures – Shaman, Warrior, - and his show – Dashi’s Bronze Asia, The Nomad’s Universe – speak for themselves. The artist’s affinity with the nomadic culture of the peoples of the Eurasian steppes is best illustrated by projects that have exhibited his own pieces alongside actual artifacts of the ancient Scythians, Huns and Mongol warriors from the age of Genghis Khan. Looking at his sculptures, one cannot help but admire them. Merely seeing these masterpieces is not enough; they simulate a desire to touch or own them. Namdakov’s works reflect many sources, above all traditional oriental once- not in tribute to fashion or fad, but because it “runs in his blood”.
When discussing the main aspects of Namdakov’s art, the issue of religion cannot be overlooked. Rather than making works in the mainstream Lamaist Buddist Tradition, he creates art within a world-view that is syncretic, embracing his identity, the forces of nature, the nomads of the steppes, shamanism, Tibetan Buddhism and eternity.
Gold and bronze have been highly prized by many people, and in the East they were used as ceremonial and sacred materials. For jewelry, Namdakov chooses expensive though entirely traditional materials. Lately, he seems to have silver in favor of gold, which has become his material of choice. However, gold can have different hues, and he often employs white gold to resemble the silver traditionally used by Buryats.
The subject of Genghis Khan as the artist confesses, is a sacred taboo for Buryats which “he did not want to violate”, but Namdakov was inexorably drawn to the great epic hero of the Mongolian people. It’s not coincident that he agreed to become the production designer of the film Mongol, directed by Sergei Bodrov and based on Genghis Khan life story. Namdakov’s work was highly acclaimed : in 2007, the film received an Academy Award nomination in the USA and Namdakov’s won the Russian Academy of Cinematographic Art’s Nika Award.
Namdakov’s work recalls the world of ancient saying. “The practice and energy of shamanism will pass through you and this will be your destiny”, a shaman once told him when he was still very young. “You cannot take credit for anything you do with your hands, for the credit belongs to your ancestors. They have decided to channel it through you so that it can reach people”. It distinctly possible that genetic memory exists – and it may well have found realization in the art work of the Buryat artist Dashi Namdakov.
- Curator of Chinese Art, Decorative Art, and Jewelry at
the Oriental Department of the State Hermitage Museum
Maria Menshikova: Dashi Namdakov “A Nomads Universe”