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10 May 2019


1. Oscar Murillo was born in Colombia in South America in 1986 and moved to London with his family aged 10. As an artist with invitations to exhibit in museums around the world, Murillo travels extensively as well as returning frequently to Colombia. The artist’s experience of migration and crossing borders and continents is visible in many of the works on display.

2. Murillo offers his own and non-Western perspective on migration and what it feels like for home to be in two places. This extends to language. The artist describes Spanish and English as both ‘second’ languages for him.

3. The title of the exhibition ‘Violent Amnesia’ comes from the title of the large 3 painting on the right as you enter the Sackler Gallery. The artist has chosen two words which are not usually placed side by side to suggest how art and ideas are unstable and open to many interpretations. The world map at the top of the painting is missing Europe and North America.

4. Some of Murillo’s paintings and other works like the church pews and the black marks on the back wall of the Sackler Gallery directly reflect the artist’s energy and physical actions in making the works.

5. One way to approach the exhibition is like reading a poem or walking into a new landscape. Be led by your senses as well as your head. In a recent interview Oscar Murillo said about visitors ‘I want them to come into the show and skip a heartbeat’.

6. Look out for images of birds – for Oscar Murillo they are important 6 because they can move across borders without restrictions.

7. The exhibition goes beyond the two galleries, don’t miss the works upstairs on the first floor, in the Kettle’s Yard House, and next door in St Peter’s Church.

8. One of Murillo’s works, The Institute for Reconciliation spreads across all the spaces – sections of canvas in the two galleries, hanging between the galleries, in a display case on the first floor and a group of figures made of papier-mâché in St Peter’s Church. These are ‘Mateos’, which are traditionally burned in Colombia at New Year.

9. Another material used by Oscar Murillo (in Gallery 2 and St Peter’s Church) is burnt corn mixed with clay. Corn is a staple food used in making bread throughout Colombia.

10. The artist has chosen a small painting by Alfred Wallis (1855-1942), from the collection at Kettle’s Yard to include in his exhibition. Murillo only recently discovered Wallis’ paintings and felt an affinity with the artist.

11. The poem which the artist has partially painted over above the ramp in the Entrance Area, was written by John Donne (1572 – 1631), an English poet. Many of the lines in the poem, written in 1624, have become famous in their own right. Notably ‘No man is an island’ and ‘For whom the bell tolls’ used as the title for one of Ernest Hemingway’s novels.

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.


Want to find out more about the exhibition from Oscar Murillo? Hear him talk about the show in the video below.