‘Dirt’, reads the materials list for a painting by Oscar Murillo which sold at auction for £250,000 in June. What better to sell to those who have everything? Art collectors have gone giddy over grime. This show presents the process by which dirt infuses the work of this young, London-based Colombian artist, who packed up his Dalston studio into a couple of vans and drove south to reassemble it in the gallery’s main space.
Hanging in a line at eye level is packaging for international products with innuendo-laden names such as ‘Fufu’ flour and ‘Bon Bon Bum’ lollipops. Remnants of a balloon and a sheet of bubble wrap – both once weightless – are grounded, cast in concrete balls; valuable canvases lie folded on the floor like decorators’ dust sheets. The work pokes fun, but it does so with charm and at itself.
Upstairs there’s a video featuring Ramón, a man who hawks lottery tickets in the artist’s Colombian hometown. People answer his ‘Win two-and-a-half million’ with ‘There’s no money, Ramón!’ In another gallery, the artist’s silkscreen-printed lottery tickets are for sale, each one hand-calligraphed with the name of whoever parted with its £2,500 purchase price. Is this an exposé of art-market folly? Perhaps. Yet, whether your name is on a lottery ticket or your footprint is on the floor, Murillo makes sure that everyone is part of the madness.
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4.3 / 5
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Elegantly gritty, this show brings together beautifully the different elements of the artist's practice - studio, thought process, development, canvas - nowadays. Where so much expectation was placed upon him, Oscar cleverly subverts this expectation of how to present art in the exhibition. Definitely more worthy of the three stars given!
In the recent mid-season New York auctions the canvases of Oscar Murillo made between $200,000-400,000, he is also featured in the upcoming auctions in London to coincide with Frieze week where his work should also fetch large prices. The market should not dictate the relevance of an artist and their practice, but it inevitably adds interest and as such it is a good time to see this compact but enlightening show at the South London Gallery. Murillo was born in Colombia but his family immigrated to the UK when he was young, he went through the Royal College of Art but the formative influence of South America still permeates through his work. His practice is varied and includes painting, sculpture, installation and performance and the excitement is seeing how these elements intertwine and overlap. In the South London Gallery the artist recreates his studio space and invites the viewers to walk among the scattered debris directly interacting and evolving the works around them. The notion of community is a strong theme running through his work and the food stuff and beer bottle caps are testament to previous events, giving us the echo of history throughout the exhibition. Enhancing this theme, the artist has devised a lottery for the public admittedly for those who can afford the £2,500 ticket with prizes to be given at Frieze week in October. If there can be a complaint about the exhibition perhaps the lack of a valuable canvas as we have seen at recent auctions would be it, we see the process of the artist but his most valuable final product is sorely lacking. In all though to get a glimpse inside the mind of a current auction darling, this show is well worth a visit.