Characterised by dense and challenging bursts of colour, often including broad swaths of vivid cerulean blue and fiery red, Oscar Murillo’s paintings are created in a manner which the artist has described as a physical release or discharge of energy from the body.
The artist’s works encapsulate his engagement with process, containing within them a history of his studio practice. Murillo sews together fragments of earlier canvases, as well as other materials such as velvet and linen, and paints onto the amalgamated surface, creating a collage effect that highlights the contrasting energies of each painted plane.
Murillo moreover incorporates segments of deep red and indigo derived from the deeply saturated ‘ink-pad’ canvases the artist developed in 2011 for his ‘catalyst’ series, which involved using a stick or broom handle to transfer marks from the pigmented surface to another canvas in an explosively energetic, full-body mark-making process.
Playing with the notion of signification and the creation of meaning, Murillo’s paintings also feature repeated letters or words which he paints and then eradicates, leaving a barely visible trace. The words ‘power’, ‘law’, and ‘news’ appear partially obliterated in a number of his paintings, suggesting a resistance to systems of authority, as well as layers of concealed, illegible information or perhaps a presence in the back of one’s mind that is impossible to ignore.
Through an associative working method, the artist builds up layers of both found and invented imagery and phrases as well as gestural markings in intuitively placed planes, resulting in dense, visually layered surfaces. As the final step in the process, he covers the canvas in colourful swaths of paint. Resolutely gestural, these instinctive markings nevertheless reveal an intentionality in their horizontal thrust and their placement.
With these new works, Murillo takes a more premeditated approach, mimicking the way in which information is often received in today’s world. Concerned with both erasure and retention, Murillo implicitly suggests that there are additional details beneath the surface that, although invisible, nevertheless have bearing on meaning.
Born in Colombia and based in various locations, mainly in London, Oscar Murillo (b. 1986) is known for an inventive and itinerant practice that encompasses paintings, works on paper, sculptures, installations, actions, live events, collaborative projects, and videos. Murillo earned his B.F.A. in 2007 from the University of Westminster, London, followed by his M.F.A. in 2012 from the Royal College of Art, London. In 2019, he co-won the Turner Prize with his fellow nominees Tai Shani, Helen Cammock and Lawrence Abu Hamdan.
Taken as a whole, his body of work demonstrates a sustained emphasis on the notion of cultural exchange and the multiple ways in which ideas, languages, and even everyday items are displaced, circulated, and increasingly intermingled. Murillo’s work conveys a nuanced understanding of the specific conditions of globalisation and its attendant state of flux, while maintaining the universality of human experience.