The exhibition, which includes a newly commissioned series of works in an immersive installation environment, continues the artist’s engagement with materials as a means of exploring wider conceptual dialogues surrounding structures of production within a specific geographic context.
Murillo frequently explores issues of community and migration drawing upon his own cultural heritage and that of others. A core aspect of this show is the artist’s collaboration with a community of skilled workers from a historic town of Sheki in Northern Azerbaijan. Located at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains, it was an important post on the ancient Silk Route. Sheki Silk Factory, which produced silk and cotton textiles and employed over 7000 people during the Soviet times, formed the core of the community of workers living in the city. Most of them are currently disenfranchised as the factory operates at a fraction of its former self after attempts of post-Soviet privatization. Numerous journeys to the factory throughout the year have formed the backbone of Murillo’s exhibition at YARAT at the same time referencing a similar socio-economic situation at the sugar-cane factory in his hometown of La Paila in Colombia. Through a meaningful collaboration with the Sheki Silk Factory and the town’s community, these discourses manifest themselves through both the materials he chooses to use and a revival of the factory as a site of production.
Murillo collaborated with local artisans to create a series of large-scale works based on a medieval stained glass technique still practiced in the region and found in Sheki’s famous Khan’s Palace. In fragments of now bastard territory, 1991-2016, the artist replaces the delicate material of colorful glass with scraps of discarded metal from the factory yard, thereby playing with the original aesthetic and adding a political dimension to the poetic oriental design. A copper grid running across the ceiling of the entire space acts as support for the artists “black paintings”, which are suspended at various levels from the grid, obscuring the ceiling completely in places.
The installation, a futile mercantile disposition (2016), creates an oppressive environment and evokes entropy within a community, as well as individual lives, engendered by turbulent economic shifts. A graphite drawing made directly on the gallery wall references the fleeting memory of the factory, caught between functionality and complete dissolution, while a video recording of a spin top, catalyst (2016), becomes a focal point of the show and symbolizes the passing of time and history repeating itself.
Curated by Suad Garayeva-Maleki.
Photos by Patrick Verbruggen.
Oscar Murillo - Dis Place
YARAT Contemporary Art Centre, November 11 - January 29