by Sukanya GargNov 29, 2019
One of the four artists who collectively shared the Turner Prize 2019, Colombian contemporary artist, Oscar Murillo, works across media. His practice, which is inspired by his own experience of being displaced from Colombia at the age of 10, is socially evocative, and combines painting, performance, drawing, sculpture, bookmaking, video, sound art, live events and collaborative works. He often works with recycled materials, text and fragments collected from his studio.
For his ongoing solo exhibition Oscar Murillo – Horizontal Darkness in Search of Solidarity at the Kunstverein in Hamburg, Germany, the artist has converted the space into a kind of agora. In one of the works exhibited, titled Horizontal Darkness in Search of Solidarity, large canvases are displayed along with the artist’s effigies — stuffed dolls symbolising the ordinary people of his Colombian hometown. There are a number of stepped seating structures that also double up as a site for the accompanying events programme while serving as a vantage point for visitors to take in the scene and observe the agora or the marketplace as a site of debate.
Murillo’s artistic practice often references issues of migration, community, exchange and trade in today’s globalised world. Born in the industrial town of La Paíla in Colombia, the everyday life, culture and labour issues are especially prominent in his works, which are inevitably linked to his own personal history. Oscar sews together pieces of his older paintings along with fabric pieces, creating a collage of sorts. Perhaps the technique itself is a manifestation of his threading together of the diaspora of the world at large and creating a bridge for the migrants and labourers his work so often references. The manifestation series is further complemented by an installation of colour-soaked black canvases that hang like curtains.
In addition, the exhibition includes drawings that Murillo made to keep a record of the time he spent in transit, which while ensuring a physical distance from the ground and boundaries in the mind of the artist did not after all free him from the political landscape that nevertheless determined the rules of the geographical landscape, even the aerial one. Murillo then, through drawings, window-works, video installations, black canvases or collage-like pieces, has repeatedly explored materials, process and issues that are of relevance in this globalised world order.
Parallel to the show in Hamburg, Murillo has another solo exhibition, Oscar Murillo: Social Altitude, which opened at the Aspen Art Museum on November 23, 2019, and is on display till May 17, 2020. The exhibition is rooted in the social dynamics of globalisation.
One of the prominent figures on the international contemporary art scene, Murillo’s work investigates the cross-cultural ties in a globalised economy. He has exhibited widely across the world, including at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015, the Sharjah Biennial 13 in 2017, the Jeu de Paume, Paris in 2017, and the Berlin Biennale in 2018. His long-term project, titled Frequencies, is a project of global scale. Through the project Murillo has been covering school desktops into canvases, offering a platform for children to express and paint, thereby encouraging a creative environment in schools. While the canvases are scattered across the world, together they form one large constantly expanding artwork. In fact, pieces of this work have been showcased several times as part of the third Aichi Triennale, second edition of Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art, and also the 56th Venice Biennale.
The exhibition Oscar Murillo – Horizontal Darkness in Search of Solidarity, which is on display from November 9, 2019 to January 27, 2020, has been organised in cooperation with Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge.