Beauty of a Tragedy: Honoring the Late Painter, HYURO
At the end of 2020, the art world lost one of its rising stars, the Valencia-based muralist and painter, Tamara Djurovic, aka Hyuro. She was a pioneering voice, a poetic painter who challenged our perceptions of gender and authority through her many murals and often unseen watercolor works. The loss left a huge void in the street art and mural world, but mostly, it left a void in how one of the best artists of her time was able to communicate the most complex of issues on our city streets. At the time of her death, I wrote an essay about her work that was featured in a small print publication she released, and it was incredible to write about my friend and one of my favorite artists in such an intimate, free-flowing stream of consciousness (which she asked for). I publish it again, today, as it is part of a new book on her work that coincides with a musuem retrospective on her work on view in her hometown of Valencia, Spain.
“All of the other panels are more allegorical, much more symbolic. They deal with the good and the bad, with man and machine, organic vs inorganic, really it's a very complex program.” I read this quote, attributed to Detroit Institute of Arts director, Graham Beal, as I had just come from the museum’s atrium where I spent hours basking in one of the greatest murals ever painted, Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry Murals. These cultural behemoths confront labor injustices from Rivera’s biting Marxist perspective, bringing the Social Realism movement to its cultural zenith. Not only were they politically charged symbols that represented Rivera’s tumultuous times, Rivera challenged the social norms of the era, painting with extreme skill and signature style. They tell a story, and in the process, became a story.
I bring these up in relation to the Valencia-based painter and muralist Hyuro because we live in a time that we could call “New Muralism.” It’s a time where Street Art, illegal and sanctioned, has begun to reach for the skies, literally. Muralists have been painting multi-storied paintings in both urban centers and rural communities worldwide. What started as an underground movement where artists subverted the system and made politically charged art, reminiscent of Rivera, has become a bit of a rock star tour that lost its original… reason. However, somewhere in this worldwide popularity contest is Hyuro, an artist who not only paints murals and fine artwork in the grand tradition of the great Social Realists, but also has an uncompromised vision of how art, specifically public art, can function in people’s daily lives. She tells the story of our modern world, reflecting how we communicate, protest, feel empowered, and at times, how we feel stripped of our social standing in the face of a globally corrupt system.
These observations of Hyuro’s work only touch the surface, taking away from the quiet poetics in her method, and the universal language she achieves in both muralism as well as fine art. She’s a storyteller. She leaves space, literally and figuratively, for the audience to find meaning. If she is painting about urban gentrification, she will create allegories in her research that speak to a history of a place and space. Not long ago, I wrote of one of in Juxtapoz about a particular painting, “The image contains 24 people, backs turned, gathered around and gazing up at a large brick wall. It’s unclear whether they are perplexed, contemplative, or at ease. Are they expecting something to happen? Have they demanded an action take place on the wall, behind the wall, or does the wall itself compel such a state of reflection?” Place. Space. Time.
This is where the genius and grace of Hyuro comes to the forefront. In a time when Street Art and Muralism are about instant gratification, a “wow” factor that makes the viewer spend more time wondering how something was painted rather than what is being painted, Hyuro makes art that will stand the test of time. Whether its political turmoil or a unique observation about the way women are portrayed in media, Hyuro shows us what is happening. What we see as civilians. What we feel.
One of my favorite of her works was painted in Berlin, a smaller work on the street, of a woman holding what was left of the Berlin Wall in her arms. It was either a collective grasp of history, or a remembrance and reflection on the way we like to have control over our own narratives and personal past. It touched on the things that we take with us when we travel, that the Wall represented an evolving personal journey for everyone around the world, something to take home as some sort of souvenir. I loved the ambiguity of this piece, it was a cause for pause. It got to the heart of Hyuro’s depth as an artist, how her work allows the viewer to grow with it, to learn from it, to ponder certain identities with it. For people who are fortunate to walk by her works each day, they become perfect metaphors of a changing city experience. That is what makes Hyuro one of the most vital voices in art today; she takes our complex human emotions and allows us to develop crucial social metaphors from them. —Evan Pricco, January 2019