This is an art of mutation. Materials migrate from one medium to another: a collection of biro drawings gets pulped to become the flooring of a complex installation where disparate objects convene as in an alchemist’s laboratory.
Recycled materials and mediums are gestures of adjustment that Oscar Murillo seems to have acquired from his border experience: born in Colombia and emigrating to London as a child, he had to adopt language, customs and cultural codes, being inescapably transformed by the unending process of migration.
If our mother tongue and the food that nourished us as children make us whom we are regardless of how far we travel, we can trace the reason behind the prevailing presence of foodstuffs – and written language – in Murillo’s oeuvre as a form of resilience. However, he does not treat the ornate coconut water packaging, the rice sacks and the snack wrappings as ready made in traditional conceptualist practice: he collages them up in an attempt to complicate art’s materiality and cultural coding. Furthermore, the packages are all written in Spanish, vestiges of the numerous imported goods that populate London’s South American markets.
They also seem to bastardise the Pop Art legacy in his work through material transgressions against the adequateness of the canvas support, which is in turn exposed to the dust and dirt collected from every day life in the studio.
In a similar spirit, his private views become traditional Colombian food gatherings that do away with the sterility of white cube cocktail rituals.
Is this contemporary disregard for the hierarchies of materials and the class-ridden art world a 21st century Povera manifesto in the times of economic uncertainty? Mixing and breaking the hierarchies of race, class, North–South, high and low, oil paint and dirt, Oscar Murillo unwraps a consciously composed wildness based on the stuff that life and art are truly made of.
Text © Gabriela Salgado