rev,. Oct 29, 2019.
Note: This is a POV thought piece not a review of any exhibition, or informed by the artist’s view of his work.
Sooner or later I was going to have to deal with the spatial dynamics in and around the paintings of Oscar Murillo. My interest has been slow to simmer, then boil up. Recently, I criticized a picture of his work in the Turner Prize competition, until I saw the whole picture, then I better understood. This is my first response; but it really started when I also posted, sometime last year, about a show at Zwirner in which he had all the paintings out in the main gallery (see below), but then in the second side gallery off to the side and in the dark he had bleachers built, and on the bleachers were paint, but then in the gaps below the bleachers, in back of them, under them, one of the spaces of my youth that I loved, there were what appeared to be puppet versions of homeless persons seeking shelter, and this struck me. Obviously, I saw it as a crawlspace, the graph would be simple
that is, he created a counterspace (turn away from gallery, but then reimagine it over your left shoulder), and in the swing of it, as per my old star system of material use, he swung round to the counterspace with the gap in mind that he did not use a stretcher in his paintings, so in the counterspace he would put the stretcher first, in a comparable form, and that then he made real, for it to come back through his art to form a counterspace reversed by reverse engineering or ostension, which also, then, by the space, gave life to mannequins or dummies
that, then, is where he is situated, in terms of being in relation to painting when painting, in a counterspace, becomes the cult element that is the basis for a reverse counterreality.
in connection with his latest, this is what Murillo says about his work, he compares it to the sense one has when haunted by a bat.
but here, he relates to the blacknesss, and the overallness of the paintings, a weight, then it is like a religion, accepting projections, then, too, an abstract space where you can unload a weight. Hmm. This sounds a bit more complicated. Then, very much germane to my current reading of Girard, he again sets up an abstract situation, in which violence breaks out. Violence is the break point.
This sounds like something bigger than a formalist model, or even a simple agency 101 or dynamic agency model. So, where to go?
In a show at Bortolozzi in 2016, he was inspired, apparently, by flying, but there being a dead body in the plane too. He then talks about a rightward turn, and that when they made that rightward turn with that dead body in the plane this was as close as he would come to “some kind of annihilated world,”
this has to eschew for the moment precise agency graphs, as it enters into altered or hypnagogic states. What it sounds to me like is a Black Out. But a black out, after life, in death, where a “radical negativity” exists, detritus. So, this
that is, in vigilogogy, sleepy wakefulness, on a plane (lattice form), it swings right, he gets a sense of the scale of things, the distance beyond; but, then, projected from the idea of the body in the baggage, where death is, below the bottom of dream, that all swings up like a black wind behind him to just send him mentally into a general wow at the whole scale and vast emptiness of the ambient-sentient space unexplored past vigilogogy, to have that feeling about an annihilated world (ambient being spins outside the head; sentient being signals from deep space). But, then, in the gallery is a hypnagogic representation of that, and in this sense, the dead body is the cult object at the center, then the experience of it is a nightmare, which bounces out (the rightward turn), and landing, there, I have a catch space where he can land, I call it the Black Out, or Chthon. What happens in this bounce is that, if previously he had used painting to secure the sides of whereever he was in a counterspace of painting, now it went with him all the way to the dead, to compare to the shrouds of the dead; then in the bounce out, it all bounced out with him, so it becomes the sides, the structure, that is, as if of the Black House itself into what I term the phthchth, the desert of meaninglessness, out in the far Ambient, heading off even into the sentient; and then since his pressure of emotion is still fixated on death this drops through even what I call Geithum, then even to what I think is the black out equivalent to death in the core, what I call, tentatively, Galooth, in my system. And so his “paintings” become but a siding of this hypnagogic destination, a limbo if you will
he calls it a “signaling device from a bastard territory|. Thus, in ambience, where things spin, “painting” is reassigned the task of signaling, which it always does nevertheless; and it acts as heavy siding to “create the space” and the bastard territory is, of course, the Black Out. But, now, reimagined as a kind of camp in death, below, so you are in the space in-between the painting acting as siding
thus, the painting becomes Onus (2016)
it seems to be seamed together of the clothes or gear or uniform of the bounce out
then, shifting back to my dynamic agency graphs, it becomes an ostensive space, a “reality” in this “redoubt” of the Chthon, where some sort of mission or something is taking place
the proof seems to be in the rocks collected to represent the phthchth
this all takes place behind, in another room, the frontispiece or frontiserion of the piece, the set up, the Islamic element, which you then step around
representing the countries flown through, but then now thinking of the dead, passing through a door, into a dark place, then the swing of the plane in its rightward turn, and zoom, a nightmare, bounced out into the limbo of the Black Out, then sinking from that into the Galooth (death below black out).
then, of course, once you’ve created the nightmare space, you can reverse again to come back in in places to suggest corridors and other dream formations like the Narrow Path, the Cursed door, etc. all of which I think is likely here, this is both
but, just taking it as it comes to me, this strongly establishes that Murillo knows of the spatial dynamics of an interior psychogeography, encompassing vigilogogy and hypnagogy, and so, it is more than formalism, as I might post as an “expanded field” for forms (RIP at last Rosaline Krauss’ take), but an opening up into the expanses of the mind. But then notice here too that the apparatus that opens things up is a file like slat array, very much like a bleachers.
as another case, let’s take his show at the Jeu de Paume, in 2017. He leads you down in, but as if in an indoctrination space, or, again, the frontiserion, he introduces some themes from his art. It looks like some of his factory oriented performances, which I have less an interest in. And, in terms of where they are, related to his paintings, there is no “formal” relationship, they are just another part of his practice, out there in the rational-material, critical-conceptual universe of rationality.
I no longer have much interest in such critique of our system, as it seems like the system is out of our control at this point (ie is in a doom spiral), still, nor does it make for good art, as the system always wins, it can always “jump” one, it can always make a move to circumvent your critique before you even get a stand in it, this might be an example of what in a press release to a show yesterday the press release to a show by Stefan Fuchs in Cologne called the exhausted self, the self just can’t keep up with it anymore.
but, then, back at the Jeu de Paume, after indoctrination you go down in, and it is black, and , it looks like, formal squares to represent “painting” in the black out form, possibly draped in black, or maybe just his black paintings again. So, we are now in hypnagogic territory. You have gone down in, and this is his version of the Glass Onion, a symbolic space
we have a drawing of his, pretty much mapping things out as I have above, the system is there, he worries that identity politics only feeds it (this is a concern), then there is the central core, and it is the elan as I have it, so he is a vitalist, as I am, and believes that that vitality is expressed through nonrational forces of something (he puts it in terms of rage, I wouldn’t, as that is reactive)
then, again, there is another drawing of another plane, making a turn, it is metaphor of this period in his work, these turns are his perceived sense of what are the vectors or spins of agency in my graphic system.
then we come into a space, apparently underground, or in the basement, and he has people there (or this is a video). This I think is the High Light, signified, but, then, taken in to light up, if with insomniac impulses, the energy of this space. This cannot at this point be the bounce out, so he is just vectoring to a hypnagogic stage of half-asleep dreaming below or beyond the enclosure of his “paintings” then this space made real. So, in terms of my agency graph, this is, again, a reverse formation, something that was counter, now by ostension become a new reality, but in a displaced place, in my hypnagogic graph, I place this is in the glass onion
this is not a real space, but a ritual space, it is a fishbowl, if you will, like in a horror movie, it is space simplified, so whatever instruments are involved are related to the ritual
then there are ritual actions, which create strange formations of things, as it does in my daily life, I do not know the meaning of this, I do know the hypnagogic spell upon them, it is a ritualized event, in a simplified space
but then we learn this is about a space in Paris, where immigrants are, so we bounce out back to the rational-material, but maybe with understanding, having visited a ritual place of that diasporic culture
so, in that piece, Murillo put us to sleep, to wake us up. Another strategy in the dynamics of his thought
but what happens most of the time with Murillo is that, as at Zwirner, the paintings, for one market
then adjunct spaces, where he expands upon things; the Meandering here in the tone of the works I discussed above, so in the Black out, in the hypnagogic basement, as it were, of his art, and his conceptualization of how painting-on-canvas is the material that holds all this together.
the paintings of late expand the field, but the explanations are all formalistic, signifying that he works much like Mark Bradford does, creating contesting surfaces the marks and process of which means something. Fine.
I am particularly interested in his Surge paintings as his metaphor of oceanicness, it seems to me to be the carryover from the jet plane metaphor in the earlier work. The Surge opens up to other spaces, not just layerings
and even in his News paintings, the layering, all of which is of interest, were this note about the micro levels, but there is suggestion that the meaning is also behind the painting, coming from some deeper place, and that would be a prototype cult space got to by a backbuilding to it, a regression, so that might be the primary drive in his painting, to build it back into a new prototype zone, where things are…hypnagogic.
This is what I think is going on. When you revert to a preexistent state, only in the mind, then you are in a prototype space. I have written of how this is becoming a redoubt of some interest as it seems that while one is up in the mediated space of modern or postmodern or postpostmodern life, you are compromised by the meme power of the discourse to always reduce whatever you say to the green slime. But, in prototype space, some actions (this is where, for example, I think the devolutionary trend in Euro figure art is at the moment, going to pre binary to root out the binary, in social life, impossible to do, but in art, it’s what art does) can bite. So, Murillo takes painting to a prototype space, this array I have been using for a while is more or less another form distantly related to graphs based on the “expanded field” concept, but, then, dynamic agency takes over.
if the painting is the gallery basis, and there is a meaning in the layerings, then a hole or break in the painting would take one through the looking glass into another space; that function is got to by the simple process of countering, then reversing back by reverse engineering to life in ostension, as noted previously. So, with this graph, let’s just say, using the formalist method I apply to film, that Murillo wants, like Turner did, to have in the backspace of his ground an indexical spot that touches upon the actual reality behind the painting, as such (just as I imagine that the vision of Polyphemus in Ulysses deriding is that indexical spot meant to startle one into or back into reality back of his painting). So, here, especially in Surge, it breaks back through that hole. That hole is in his current show.
then taking with him the element of the stretcher, as I said, he leaps back into the prototype space.
in his work he backbuilds not to cult, but to intercession, to opening up, so as it were in the interstices of the painting on canvas, the layers are reimagined as opened up in a prototype intercessional space, and thus the stretcher malforms into a bleachers; then, it occurs to him, this can harbor in it representations of people, the new year’s eve figures of Colombia, where he was born
so we have what I viewed in the Zwirner show, a ritual spatial dimension, that is, the paintings in the pronaos, as it were, but, then, the bleachers, leading somewhere else, in the cella itself, this is where the gods are, in this exhibition.
in this Manifestations show at Zwirner, in 2019, there were paintings, in the Surge series in the main gallery
then, after you take in the process, and consider the formalist points
you turn around
you step into the adjunct gallery, and there are the bleachers.
with a projector projecting one of his paintings in the other room on a wall opposite
the projection acts as a device in the gallery of dematerializing the paint, but staying with the paint, and the aura of the brushing; it is like a false door, in ancient Egypt, it opens the door of the painting, out the back, then opens up into a spirit space, if you will, behind or within the facture of the stretcher world beyond. It also as video serves the purpose of the dematerialization of painting to act very much like a common device in film where watching a film, the real thing suddenly comes through to you, so this is a fairly commonly understood device (from a general not art world culture perspective).
most people are likely to turn and look up, to stay with the painting; but, then seeing the dematerialization, feel the haunting, the removal to another space, with different entities in it, to then turn and look at the bleachers
then you get the bleachers
you see that, in effect, a number of the surfaces of the bleachers are worked with canvas and then downshifted or degraded examples of his workmanlike brushstroke as, in this lower condition milieu, it lets the climate of the space and its metaphor bespeak his stroke, to result in a cruder, simpler, more real world style, as if inherited from his stroke.
and while you are free to think of the stroke on the canvas on the steps of the bleachers as just an expansion of the formalist stroke onto a stretcher that is really stretched out into a shaped form, that’s fine; except, now, you cannot help seeing that the under space is much more important than the surface space, there are figures under the seats, in the darkness, and discarded ones on top
as he makes clear in other variations on this, you are meant to look into these vignettes of human presence, in a piece in Shanghai, he imagines a personage or figure on the bleacher, cooking some food
or simply assembling a little group of tiny collectible pickups he or she has made to represent his basic human effort to, even in such a situation, try to remain human, by calling on his household gods.
unfortunately, there are very few images of this bleachers, I broke away a few close-ups
all of this, by asking you to step out to the farthest reach of his movement in media space behind but still attached by way of an expansion of the idea of stretcher to his paintings, he now asks you to burrow back in, as if to come up from behind into the paintings, to look more carefully for human presence in the interstices of all this. Again, this I have graphed out above, in a formalist way, as a simple extension.
I just want to mention in passing that usually I see backbuilding as only happening vis a vis cult, and the opening up of the agentic array. But on that array the vector can go to intercessional, votive or apotropaic, to take over the backbuilding, thus making for very different kind of spaces. To imagine that Murillo backbuilds to a cult space is absurd, where he seems to take this breakback into a prototype space is to the diasporic space of the intercessional doorway, and for him, this intercessional space is one of nightmare, then bounced out of, often leading to hypnagogic spaces.
this way of viewing things, however, remains somewhat formalist, and might equate Murillo with, for example, Fontana, whom we discovered at an exhibition of them at Gagosian in 2012, went through the gash, into an ideal or prototype cult space beyond or behind it. This would also parallel my treatment of ancient Egyptian art, forever, when faced with depleted cult, burrowing back into the cult prototype space, to get a deeper ground, to shore up the cult (this also often happens in horror movies). But, if this is happening in an intercessional prototype space, that is something different. In cult prototype, it can remain in the space in the penumbra of the painting or work of art.
but in intercessional prototype space, this would seem to open it out to doors, to passageways, to entries, to streets, etc.
(and, in fact, the ancient Egyptians knew this too, making square viewing holes in tombs of kings to give the king a view of the night sky, all to aid in his catasterization
there is also the notion that the Tut tomb had the beds of minor gods to serve as flying vehicles to transport him to heaven too, golden slippers too, with which to walk to heaven
though I don’t want to go into it, this would in actual graphs likely work out as a compound agency as I think any deepening of the lore or magic rite or belief was a cult restoration/reinforcement task, which then would swing off into the intercessional agency. Also, I now see that the golden bed, which I have loved for a long time, is, in fact, a classic example of a Famulus, that is, an inanimate object become animate, and, for that, thought to be an early sighting of a conjure figure, so it is part of a conjuring, which is, of course, often intercessional.
It is important to know that while there is backbuilding to cult space, it seems to me that in Murillo there is shift from the primarily cult-reinforcing backbuilding to an intercessional-variant, and this opens up into a flowing, tunnel-oriented space. The question then is, where is this space, in terms of the mind? I situate the bleachers hypnagogically as a lattice, breaking down into hypnagogy, from the rational painting practice up across the Luor in vigilogogy. You pass through the nexus, represented by the video and its dematerialization, this comes at you in a kind of whoosh, if not THE whoosh (I am only just now exploring the lesser whooshes of softer splats).
there is a nice example of this passage in the movie Madhouse (1974), Cushing having murdered people to prevent Price from taking the role of dr death from him, is watching a movie of this, in victory.
the movie has a scene, then Price is burned
but, then, close-up
something in the shot seems ambiguous, not what it was
then Price gets up to start to walk to him
Cushing blinks, I can’t believe what I am seeing, it is a startle effect
but, no, no doubt, Price is, while still in the movie, no longer “in” the movie, in terms of its plot, he has got up and is walking out of the movie, toward Cushing; this is a whoosh, an ambient attack of a conjure figure from out of the fire
then there is a complete cover up of the eyes, not to believe it
so Price comes out of the screen, into real space, to attack him
it is a full on ambient-to-hypnagogic inyourface attack, a whoosh to nightmare
this, then, is what happens when you cross the nexus, dematerializing, then, as it were, falling into a new consideration, passing into a below or beyond space, which, because of its intercessional pull, is larger than any imagined previously
all I can gather from the personages is that they are there under the aegis of Hans Haacke’s Chocolate Meister, which seems to include the word Trumpf, so it is a “political” piece (but truth be told this sort of lateral pass to mention another work of art, to make the art about other art, then to also mention the politics of the day, is mostly just rationalization, providing clues to where to go with the piece, but, not, in my view (or until I look at it in more detail) elemental to getting into it entirely (in my social theory, he is talking about the under the bottom, a place below the bottom of the ladder, where, if you get knocked there by bad paperwork, or a record of any kind, in today’s computer-generated recordkept world, you are cooked, forever and ever, to live in a black market world below).
But as the Surge paintings reach out into an Ambient space, to spin on your eye, and, taking in the sea as an idea in your mind too, that more open energy can in fact precipitate down and be caught up by ambient spins in the hypnagogic to then come swinging in to the lattice by way of the Under the Bed, or the Kunstkammer. This is precisely the hypnagogic space in which these figures live. They are reduced to anthroparions or, worse, like the haunted and disabled pulp figures in Suspiria (2018), their souls kept down by what’s in the kunstkammer, also below, and this is where we are. So, somehow, Murillo, by breaking loose from painting, but, still, within a painting universe, has, by moving past the expanded field to the hypnagogic mind field, opened up a space for new action. Chocolate Meister is the piece which, a while back, incited my current interest in his work.
But, then, the best expression of the fullness of Murillo’s sense of space as it exists vis-à-vis his painting comes with his Turner Prize installation at Margate, 2019. This expansive arrangement I will cover in Part 2.