The ocean, the sea, or any liquid mass has the capability to create and erase itself with each new wave that surfaces. Oscar Murillo’s (b. 1986, La Paila, Colombia) practice relates in many ways to the oscillating force of water, an infinite flow of conception and undoing, pointing to his interest in the notion of cultural exchange and the circulation of ideas, languages and objects.
This solo exhibition, titled Masses, establishes a cartography of mass—liquid, material, sonic—across a large-scale installation that opens with a panorama of expansive gestural paintings titled Disrupted Frequencies. They are heavily marked in varying shades of blue, resembling a dark tide washing over the space. These new paintings are the outcome of the current juncture where Murillo finds himself, almost a decade after he initiated the long-term project Frequencies through which he and his team of collaborators distributed raw canvases across schools all over the world. Affixed to school desks, they were drawn upon, tagged and illustrated by school children for over 6 months and sent back to the artist afterwards. Murillo treats these canvases as analogue recording devices and the sheer volume allows him to tap into a collective consciousness—a cultural and social frequency—away from the anecdotal intricacies of where and by whom the drawings were created. Drawing on a tradition of abstraction, they are grounded by a deep understanding of the material and socio-political realities at present.
There are several types of frequencies: radio frequencies to tune into, geographical frequencies, economic frequencies. And we have regional differences: in Nepal we talk about altitude, in New York we talk about economy and social issues, in Mumbai there is a clear sedimentation of intensity and time, in Singapore the awareness of a conservative society. In a way these readings are also cliché in relation to how we read or want to believe certain societies are, so the paintings represent my desire to add friction to a project which has been very fluid and organic in its evolution.
Further permeating the WIELS galleries are a large number of mass-produced plastic garden chairs, rock-like sculpture formations made from ground corn and cement, a series of Flight drawings and a mesmerizing film shot in the early hours of new year's eve in Colombia. They similarly reflect his preoccupation with the late capitalist exchange of people and goods, which includes questions around class, systems of production, and labour.
The exhibition at WIELS marks the termination of Frequencies and ushers in a new phase that sees the collection of canvases and the memories they hold flattened into raw material mass, to be stitched together and used as a resource for new works, provocatively disrupting the intellectual project of an archive. Through the splicing of objects from different geographical, social and cultural contexts, Murillo creates friction and unease. It points to his deep-seated urge to obliterate the weight of time and geography, and allow a polyphonic stream of consciousness to breach the levee.
Curator: Helena Kritis
With the generous support of: HR One Group
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Oscar Murillo (b. 1986, CO) lives and works in various locations. He earned a BA in Fine Arts at the University of Westminster in 2007 and an MA from the Royal College of Art, London in 2012. In 2019, Murillo was one of four artists to collectively be awarded the prestigious Turner Prize. Oscar Murillo is one of the most significant and inventive artists of his generation and after his memorable intervention in the 2017 thematic exhibition The Absent Museum, WIELS is proud to invite him back with Masses, a solo presentation which includes new and existing works.