Oscar Murillo unveils his global project Frequencies at his former school in Hackney
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Oscar Murillo unveils his global project Frequencies at his former school in Hackney
Installation shot of paintings from the Disrupted Frequencies series by Oscar Murillo in Cardinal Pole Catholic School, London. Commissioned and produced by Artangel in collaboration with Frequencies Foundation. Photo: Zeinab Batchelor.

LONDON.- Turner Prize-winning artist Oscar Murillo has brought together over 40,000 canvases by more than 100,000 school children from around the world in a large installation at his former secondary school, Cardinal Pole, in Hackney, east London. Presented by Artangel, the free exhibition takes place from 24 July – 30 August 2021 and marks the culmination of Murillo’s eight-year global project Frequencies.

Since the conception of Frequencies in 2013, Murillo has sent pieces of blank artist canvas to schools around the globe with the sole requirement they be affixed to classroom desks for a term, inviting students aged 10 to 16 to freely mark, draw, scribble or write on them. Frequencies has grown to become a vast project involving over 350 schools in 34 countries, including Brazil, China, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Nepal, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, UK, USA and many others.

The extraordinary reach of the project can be seen for the first time in the sports hall at Cardinal Pole Catholic School, where Murillo attended between the ages of 11 and 18, having arrived in London with his family from Colombia a year earlier. Disrupted Frequencies, a new series of paintings by Murillo featuring multiple Frequencies canvases stitched together, will also be exhibited.

Oscar Murillo said: “Cardinal Pole School and Frequencies go hand-in-hand. It’s a little bit romantic, but I remember being in La Paila, Colombia, aged 10 years old, and my Dad saying he wanted to travel to the UK. I am looking at this map of the world and find this tiny little island, which looks to me like it’s in the middle of nowhere. Six months later we find ourselves there, my family totally uprooted, and Cardinal Pole School became this family, where education and culture were injected into life. In a way, the trauma of being uprooted in this way into a different culture and country, is at the core of Frequencies, so it is fitting, almost poetic that this exhibition should find a home a Cardinal Pole School.”

Viewed together, the canvases convey the conscious and unconscious energy of young minds at their most absorbent, optimistic and conflicted. Often contributed to by several students, the canvases are densely layered with drawings, slogans, messages and motifs. The canvases feature universally recognised names (Beyoncé, Ronaldo, One Direction) and images (hearts, rainbows, skulls) alongside local cultural references – the result of a project that is both a local and global endeavour.

A group of prominent Londoners, including winner of the Global Teacher Prize in 2018, Andria Zafirakou MBE, writer and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, creative computer scientist Jazmin Morris and musician Nkisi, have each chosen a selection from Frequencies for a special display within the installation. Sixth Form students from the school will also choose their favourite canvases for display during the final week of the show.

A programme of public events will be held at the school during the exhibition, including a talk with Oscar Murillo on Thursday 29 July and a discussion on the politics of archives on Thursday 26 August (both from 7-8.30pm). Interactive education workshops led by Sixth Form students from the school will take place at weekends, starting on Saturday 31 July. Saturday workshops will be aimed at young people (aged 16 – 21) and Sunday workshops for families (all ages welcome). All events will be free to attend, with prior registration required.

Oscar Murillo was born in La Paila, Colombia in 1986. He studied at the University of Westminster and the Royal College of Art, both in London. His main studio is based in north-east London. Since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, he has been closely involved in community activism in Colombia.

Over the past decade, Murillo has become known for a practice that encompasses paintings, works on paper, sculptures, installations, actions, live events, collaborative projects, and videos. Recent solo exhibitions include 'Social Altitude', Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, Colorado, (2020) ‘Horizontal Darkness in Search of Solidarity’, Kunstverein in Hamburg, Germany, 2019-20; 'Violent Amnesia’, Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, UK (2019), ‘Capsule 07: Oscar Murillo’, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany, 2017-18.

Frequencies has been exhibited at the 56th Venice Biennale: All the World's Futures in 2015. During 2016, it was presented at the 2nd Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art in China and the 3rd Aichi Triennial, Homo Faber: A Rainbow Caravan in Japan. In 2017 it was exhibited as part of Murillo’s Capsule 07 exhibition at Haus der Kunst in Munich and as part of the group shows A Poet*hical Wager in MOCA Cleveland, and Fragile State at the Pinchuk Arts Centre in Kiev. In 2019, it was exhibited as a solo exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK. In 2021 it is on view as a solo show at Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan and was part of a group show titled 'The Space Between Classrooms', Swiss Institute New York, in 2021.

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