Bio

OSAIRA MUYALE
Contemporary artist
Aruba, 1964
Lives and works on Aruba


“Osaira Muyale is a dreamer and a visionary that ponders the
infinite realms of her being and searches for beauty through
the chaos of existence.  With her magic touch and love she is able
to transform the everyday into the sublime”.
Art curator Renwick Heronimo


Aruba ARTNEXUS 104, March – May 2017 Aruba in Art Today, From the “Useless Islands” to the Happy, ARTNEXUS 104, March – May 2017. Aruba in Art Today, From the “Useless Islands” to the Happy Islands. By Dr. Jose Manuel Noceda Fernandez, Art Historian and researcher.

Osaira Muyale established a deep Affiliation with introspection and the  deconstruction of memory. Her iconography, indebted to Louis bourgeois’great influence on more than a few artists, takes shape in a methodical retreat into an inner  universe. Her interests go from dysfunctional communication to the crisis of the modernist model of progress, the collapse of utopias, and the widely proclaimed death of the subject. The key point of her work is the complex onstruction of identity, the retrenchment and safeguarding of the personal, that which Okwul Enwezor understands as dislocation, uprooted-ness, displacement and dispersion,
exile, and alienation gaining terrain even in the rooms of one’s own house. Over time, Muyale outlines the resources to be deployed much more clearly. Hallway between Wifredo Lam’s human-animal-mythological syncretism and the ‘Blue Klein” ictoire de Samothrace, I’m Not White ,Not Black, But Blue. From 2012, a hybrid image in
blue levitating  over a trampoline, is a good example of the extension of all these concerns with an extraordinary power of synthesis.


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OSAIRA MUYALE: 1995 AUTOBIOGRAPHY, MEMORY, AND LACK OF COMMUNI­CATION

by  Art historian Dr. José Manuel Noceda Fernandez

A superficial contemplation of present times demonstrates, without much ado, the conflicts arisen as of the modern age. The terms to define this “fin-de-siecle” feel­ing oscillate between the apocalyptic prophecy and the clever epitaph of José Luis Brea of a “posthumous era of culture”. Behind these descriptions we sense signs of decadence, of anxiety over a global society.

The vertiginous ramification of the transnational and globalizing action of the economy, the financial world, the spearhead technologies, the information, and the culture disturbs the coherent paradigms of nations and men, sets new rules, causes an unusual mobility in the social strata  as well as in the symbolic and cognitive classes, and causes a “deterrito­rializa­tion”, intensified by the irruption of another being, not invited to the banquet, i.e. I refer to the uncontrollable movements from the South to the metropolitan centers.

The eagerness to be civilized, concealed by the story of progress, ends by curtailing the autonomy of the individual. We live in a “thingy” society, very much aimed at the mass media, in a society of transmitters, or as Barthes would say, of “ousters”, in which the dissoluteness of the personal triumph prevails. Therefore, it is not paradoxical to admit that the lack of communication is a lurking spook. This is the context man lives in, absorbed in a deaf ears dialogue. He rather sits in front of the screen of a monitor and consumes the global broadcasting menu, accesses the super networks of INTERNET from his home – his real hiding place -, communicates at a distance, builds an insurmountable ­wall around him, than that he has face to face contact with another. Apart from that, a large part of humanity remains “in areas of silence”, not having the slightest clue about the “advantages” derived from technological impulses.

In this way, the solitude and the fear for a soliloquy emerge. The individual hides himself behind a solipsistic silence to protect his too vulnerable personality, reinforcing the idea of the nonsense of communication, the failure of the interaction between transmitter-recipient, the interference of the standards for the circulation of mess­ages. These are exactly the details on which Osaira Muyale bases her ideo-aesthetic story.

I met Osaira in 1993 and I now realize that she has rounded off her visual universe. The autobiography appears to be the ideal means to place her into her history and experience. With The Mystery of the Soul, 1995, she surprises with a Barthesian iconography based on the leitmotiv of fragmentation, or rather the physical flagellation and the mutilation of the memory. I enter into these topics because we never perceive an image in its entirety. We only identify unconnected signs of which the syn-taxis has to be deciphered gradually. In this respects, Muyale adheres to the memory when she composes a scene of an introspective and retrospective nature, an infinite permeability between navigable stages from the present to the past and vice versa. Wandering through the intimacy, she takes the age of childhood, the stage of innocence, as a central theme, but also the age prone to the loss of sense, of an atmosphere which normally explains the traumas, mysteries and passions of adulthood.

With Mystery … the artist choose a substratum of general use, belonging to everyday life; she connected the mystic complexity of the creating individual with her favorite objects. The symbolic work insistently recurs to “remains” of the human body – torsos hanging upside down, ears, feet, legs, hands and hair -, the domestic environment – chairs, suitcases, cutlery – or the affective environment – portraits, shoes, and parts of dolls. The ambi­guity emphasizes the coherence between these elements. Muyale outlines an apparent syntagmatic dislocation in respect of representation, and although it appears that she revives the astuteness of surrealism, in reality she assumes and reconstructs the contradictions inherent to the paradigms which mould a character.

A year later, during the exposition Hende muhe den Evolucion, she displays a work in which she shows her affinity with the autobiographic, emotive, and objectional preeminence of Louise Bourgeois and with certain three-dimensional schemes of Richard Long. The work in question, seen from a distance, depicts a spiral, and, furthermore, it may resemble the anatomy of the ear, the organ exalted to the level of obsessive iconography, which is repeated like a pattern, which outlines a complete route, a real or imaginary path, just like Long sometimes did. However, the feeling of appropriate guilt disappears rapidly. Muyale justifies its necessity by placing the “I” in the heart of the artistic reflection. Therefore, she assumes the invol­un­tary atrophy of one of the irreplaceable sense of men: the ear, the hearing.

The work harshly refers to the deterioration of com­munication, the uselessness of the ear in the heart of the desire to be civilized. The fusion of the individual-artist with the world is realized by means of a flow of communica­tion and information, marked by stages of interruption and areas of silence. For this reason, the path of Osaira is seg­mented, truncated in intervals, with sequences of frozen, sleeping, and eschatological personalities which condense universal worries, torments which strike the inhabitants of today’s Earth, which go far beyond geo­graphic areas or political preferences, with the pain of living in a small country in the Caribbean, umbilically bound to the ancient Metro­poles, connected to the World by satellite, the har­bors for transatlantic ships, and the international hotel chains; surrounded by the sea, where the perpetual feeling of insular claustrophobia reigns, and where the scourge of intolerance and the lack of under­standing is felt, which probably confirms the truth con­tained in a popular saying, full of humor and grace: “Small community, large hell”.

The work of Osaira Muyale connotes certain irony regarding these modern times of false communication, men­tioned by Walter Benjamin; she dissents from the maneuvers which seem to connect us with the rest of the world, more than ever. From individual sentiments, a deso­late soul, to pub­lic, univer­sal success, it all regards the anxiety of a generation, caused by the devastating effects of the lack of communication. From her life, her history, originates a narration which, in the end, soars the biogra­phy, influenc­ing our lives, the foreign experience, and which suddenly does not seem as subordinated to “the per­sonal” as we sup­pos­ed it was.


Osaira Muyale: 2011 Spirituality and context by Art historian Dr. Jose Manuel Noceda Fernandez

I came across some of Osaira Muyale’s work, for the first time in a while, at the First Caribbean Triennial in the Santo Domingo Museum of Modern Art, in September 2010. She was one of the artists invited by the “Dutch Caribbean”.

Osaira belongs to a group which is transforming the art produced in Aruba, this diminutive enclave which for centuries was at the whim of Dutch geopolitics. Osaira is a member, with a distinctive style, of a clan of artists there who were highly active in the early 1990s.

But she was also clearly associated with a movement that crosses Aruba’s borders and defines a new avant-garde throughout the Caribbean, marked by radical innovations in terms of concept and representation. In this respect her work showed affinities with the language of several West Indian artists, but especially in the way it reflected the emergence of a group of female artists who made their mark at that time within the Caribbean and also beyond its geocultural boundaries.

That work opened doors and led to a number of opportunities. Osaira was invited to the Havana Biennial in 1997, as part of a programme aimed at exploring the role memory as a resource in contemporary artistic endeavour. She was also present at the Caribbean and Central America painting biennials organized by the Santo Domingo Museum of Modern Art. And years ago, Virginia Pérez-Ratton included her in a Caribbean and Central American retrospective for an edition of the Cuenca (Ecuador) biennial, one of the most firmly-rooted and best-attended of such events in Latin America & the Caribbean.

Some years ago, alluding to Osaira, I quoted José Luis Brea’s “El arte en la era póstuma de la cultura”, to reference a theoretical field in which I felt her poetic art worked very well. Her sculptures and structures are unquestionably the expression of existential limits and tensions of universal scope, viewed through the highly individual prism of the artist’s personal experience. I would describe it as sponge-like, absorbing and recording diverse chapters of daily experience and translating them into images charged with meanings.

Analyzing this new work which I exhibited in Santo Domingo, ‘Take me home cause I don’t remember’ (Project Silhouette, 2008-2010), and performing a kind of retrospective revision, it is apparent that this visual output defined by personal points of reference and marked spirituality has not changed in its essential constants, although it has become more complex in terms of its mise en scène. And with the passage of time, Osaira has enriched the visual text with numerous elements that appreciably expand her expressive resources. She is now among the artists who have contributed most to the formal, conceptual and material reformulation of art in Aruba. She is the master of an extended register characterized by work with a variety of techniques, ranging from painting, drawing and sculpture using various materials, to the challenge always implied in adopting new disciplines and the new media of photography and video, always with success in terms of expressive qualities.

Also apparent is an interest in matter and the recycling of objects. The wide assortment of the latter includes fur, clocks, dolls, broken tailor’s dummies and countless other elements, always arranged so as to represent existential and contextual imperatives. And this is perhaps the leitmotif of her work, this perennial interchange between the “I” and what surrounds her, between personal time and the circumstances of context. Everything has a symbolic function, whether expressed through the latent meanings in her works, or through the use of colour to convey emotional states.

 Viewed from an evolutionary perspective, through all that activity Osaira maintains certain key elements as constants in her work. These include the position reflected in ‘The mystery of my soul’ (1995), an autobiographical work, and a close affinity  with Barthesian reflection, introspective in nature, with an emphasis on fragmentation and on deconstruction of memory.

Although her early work (like that of no few artists) clearly showed the influence of Louise Bourgeois, identifying herself with the anthropomorphism and sculptural fragmentation characteristic of that artist, I see no traces of that style in the Santo Domingo work, which introduces an environment-type narrative based on the assembling of documents and objects into symbolic codes imbued with meanings that reflect an open environmental vision in which the human being is the focus of her discourse.

As is usually the case with Osaira’s output, the essence of this work rests on the bedrock of personal identity, on the way she uses tools and methods to convert her individual history and experience and the deep layers of her psyche into a rich profusion of drawings, etchings, sculptures and installations.

Using personal history as her vantage point, coupled with her particular way of representing existential dilemmas, she creates a perspective of surprising reverberations. This approach fosters a poetic style that adopts an introspective methodology, of withdrawal into a private domain in response to a world situation determined by the crisis of the modernist model of progress, by frustration of the development processes in large parts of the South, by the collapse of the social Utopias, where the model of questioning the Other deployed by the avant-gardes coexists, strangely, with researches into the “I” itself, and given the implications of such conditions for a small island such as Aruba. Okwui Enwezor, highlighting the dichotomy between the individual and his/her environment, has said that for many non-Western artists, the logic of modernity is no longer based on the style of the avant-garde as the preponderant Zeitgeist, or concerned with progress and change. For many (in the West as well), he believes modernity has come to mean a particular condition – one that often implies dislocation and rootlessness; displacement and dispersion; alienation and exile, even in the familiar rooms of the home. For him, rather than breaking down barriers, modernity seems to have built them.

His words clarify the path Osaira has taken. The crisis and real conflicts of society and culture, the failure of the logic of immutable identities, the undermining of cultural identities implied by the high volume of international travel, all revive and intensify age-old questioning about existence, like Dostoevsky’s torments. The loss of the subject’s freedom asserted by Foucault, and the weakening of the notion of self in a destabilized modern individual proposed by Andreas Huyssen, clearly reflect the deep crises in a civilization dominated by the illusion of the material and by consumerism.

Such circumstances explain the current prevalence of art founded on a personal archeology, which converts experience into an allegory of individual questioning and prompts self-reference in response to conditions of existential instability, in a premeditated excavation of memory which unearths gestures of intimacy, journeys in the distant past and retrieves events that fuel the individual narratives.

The representation strategy in this case involves a remapping of individual or familiar territory, at odds with the compact, closed ontologies of yesteryear. This new anthropological approach is apparent in ‘Take me home cause I don’t remember‘. The work presents itself in four clearly-defined sections that nonetheless form an environment-type mise en scène, with one of her now classic sculptures of broken, incomplete tailor’s dummies, a photograph with flowers and a satellite view of the island, a video about her dog and an extensive polyptych of 80 drawings. Among the latter, I was particularly struck by the sequence of anthropomorphic drawings in which the human body, represented in an elementary, naïve way – sometimes in combination with small birds, in others with the intersection of photographs of flowers, or in musical pentagrams – is repeated as a pattern and splits into countless poses, subtle variations and combinations. However, these human images have nothing to do with Da Vinci’s L’uomo vitruviano and the supreme expressions of the renaissancist concept of Man as the centre of the universe. Quite the contrary. In an age in which one speaks of the anthropocene – a term coined by Paul Crutzen to denote a stage in the evolution of the planet marked by the global influence of human activity on the ecosystems – all these images are imbued with a heartrending poetry that is difficult to ignore.

It could be said that Osaira’s work, always detached from the experiential, is particularly well adapted to the requirements of an event preoccupied with the relations between art and the environment. The environment is not a concept that can be circumscribed, nor is it a synonym for (although encompassing) ecology; the notion is much more all-embracing; it includes – of course – the natural factors (behaviour of the climate, energy sources); but it also encompasses Man, his relations with his living surroundings, as well as social and cultural aspects. And that is exactly what Osaira synthesizes, from her perspective – that interrelation with individual themes, with the little things that fill and give sense to her daily existence; but also with her surroundings and with the implications of living on a small Caribbean island.