Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Appear, fade, disappear.

The theme of memory and remembrance weigh heavily in the work of Oscar Munoz, throughout the selection of works exhibited at iniva we see faces depicted , created or appear in front of our eyes only to fade from view by processes which enable us to see but also to inevitably fade the image away from us. Portraits rely on simple rendering by the artists hand or by reflections which alter and eventually disappear.
In one video piece the image of the artists face is reflected in water held in his cupped hands, this rudimentary mirroring of the face is at the mercy of change and the lack of control we have over the watery reflection, just as in life forces beyond our control dictate what we can observe and the nature of our observations. The mind drifts to the degeneration of the human brain and the destructive forces of ageing on our abilities to recall, recognise and remember as the water seeps through the small gaps between the fingers and the cupped hands. We hold on tightly to our memories but for some even the recall of our own image and actions fades away with the passing of time.
In a similar piece Munoz reflects on our own self image, in a ceramic basin a face is drawn on the surface with a dark material to create the simple lined visage, held still by the water which fills the basin it is still and recognisable but as the plug is pulled the face distorts, the water slowly drains and as the final drops disappear all that remains is a messy remnant of the image. Simply titled ‘Narcissus’ it is an obvious and poetic criticism to the over-reliance on ones own self image and the futulity of vanity. The final series of portraits are comprised of five video screens showing the artist deftly painting portraits of a variety of faces in water on dry slabs of stone, as quickly as the faces are completed and the next is being created the inevitable drying of the water occurs and the faces fade and disappear. People come and go, time passes, the significance of the movement of time and our own insignificance within its passing is clear.

All the works in this exhibition are engaging, at the same time Munoz’s work can be subtle but obvious, simple and powerful. It is in Munoz’s piece ‘Eclipse’ that the inward reflections look outward, seven holes have been created in the gallery wall which blocks our view out of the window, the remaining views out through these tiny dots in the wall are reflected in much the same manner as pinhole camera onto a mirrored disc which then projects the image of the world outside the gallery onto the wall adjacent to the hole, it is a voyeuristic but unpredictable peek in real time at life outside. People and vehicles pass, clouds roll across the sky, the sunlight changes in intensity as atmospheric conditions change and develop. Whilst captured in our own thoughts we voyeuristically wait for the next interesting indication of the passage of time outside, one may feel the sense of being absorbed into a cinematic reconstruction of here and now. This may be where Munoz’s real intentions lie, absorbed in a self indulgent need for recognition, concerned with images of ourselves and others and obsessed with the processes of ageing, the passing of time and our own mortality perhaps Munoz is showing us the futility of too much self absorption and suggesting that we step back outside and take part in life rather than just watching as it passes us by.

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