Oscar Muñoz (1951, Popayán) is a visual artist who uses unusual techniques and a fine aesthetic sensibility to create compelling artworks that interrogate paradoxes of the human image and the fragile and ephemeral nature of perception, identity and memory. Over more than 30 years, he has created an outstanding body of work that is simultaneously local and universal. In the Colombian context, his work questions the role of the image, its production and consumption through public media, in shaping a political reality that accepts persistent violence and war as daily routine.
Oscar Muñoz continuously experiments with processes, mediums and representation. In Aliento (Respiration) (1995-2002) the viewer breathes onto seemingly blank mirrors to reveal obituary portraits, momentarily re-instating their presence. The video Re/trato (2004) shows the artist’s struggle to draw a self-portrait in water on a hot pavement where the lines evaporate before he can complete the image. In other works, faces printed with ashes on water slowly deform and disappear as the water drains away, or, using video, are reversed and re-formed in continuous loops.
An inspirational figure in Colombia’s art scene, Muñoz is the co-founder (2006) and artistic director of Lugar a Dudas (Room for Doubts) in Cali. This centre, which is an open-access space with an archive, library, artists’ residencies and a laboratory for research and critical analysis, has activated and revitalised local culture.
Oscar Muñoz is honoured for his highly original, profound and poetic artworks on the transitory nature of human existence, memory and history; for his dedicated commitment to heightening public awareness of both the power and fragility of the image in a context of violence and disappearance; for expanding the boundaries of the visual arts in his pursuit of accessible and deceptively simple ways to convey complex ideas; and for his generosity as a public intellectual, influencing younger generations and supporting the development of contemporary culture.