Miguel Osuna’s landscapes are constructed as memoirs: visual recollections of the fleeting yet sensuous moments travelers experience en route. These brushes with the landscape highlight the strong connection between the permanence of the roadway and substantiality of our own reflections.
Asked to create a series of transportation inspired works, Osuna concentrates on the motorway as a conduit between constructed and natural geography and our visceral recollections of those spaces and moments. If landscapes record the physical stories we encounter, Osuna’s interest lies in the long arc of the narrative: the textural relevancy of what is real, what is remembered, and what is reconstituted to satisfy our desire to relive the experience we can never have again.
Osuna is interested in the kinetic resonance of travel’s visual narrative. He expands the lens so the canvas depicts the big picture, synthesizing the visual as retrospection, foregrounding the liminality of both the road and the passage over and through it. What we experience en route is part memory, part fabrication. The work becomes a dynamic rendering of the transparency of narrative constructed in the motion of the highway.
En Route reveals the pathway as a primal element of human mobility. The roadway transports the traveler from one location to another, it is not a place to stay, and the transience of the experience mists over the exactitude of what is witnessed. Osuna revels in this space, using gradients of color that remove detail so that the viewer focuses less on the sharper aspects of the road and more on the memory of the encounter.
Despite the watercolor quality of the images, there is no softness in these pieces. There is however, a sensuality that draws the viewer into the canvas. The smoothness of the brushstroke exemplifies the haziness of the memory. Each stroke has a place, driving the pigment just so and solidifying the transient effect, so that Osuna is as much en route creating the work as the viewer is encountering and reencountering it.

Each painting in En Route is singular, telling its own story, but collectively the work represents Osuna’s (and by proxy our own) transitory connection to Los Angeles as a cityscape that is largely superficial, skimmed rather than dived in to. Painterly use of light captures the viscosity of what we remember in the blur of moments, spaced between locations. The richness of LA is unfolded in the sweeping transition of light and color on the canvas. These works resemble a Rorschach memory test where the viewer assigns to the visual a connection to a prior experience, “I’ve been there, I just don’t know where there is!”
Osuna’s use of color is an homage to his watercolorist beginnings. It allows him to capture the crossing in space and time of being en route, heading to the horizon, into the blue. As we distance ourselves from the sharp formations comprising the landscape, everything goes blue and our brains revert to the womb, to the water. And in Los Angeles, the ocean provides an enormously potent backdrop to our movements.
The paintings in this series evoke the roadway as the in LA as both a temporal and permanent backdrop of experience. What was past, what was experienced still exists in the present, in a narrative referenced on canvas as one color softly bleeding into another, conjuring a conversation already felt as much as encountered along one’s way.
Roads are often referred to as arteries, channels of transportation and communication. Motorways in Los Angeles in particular cut through the cityscape in drastic ways, providing a convenience and an escape. Drivers no longer focus on the road, the barely perceptible surface of experience, despite its incontrovertible permanence, and instead look ahead to the desired destination. But our brains and, Osuna would argue, our imaginations are alert, refining the mundane with the specificity of an artist’s eye. He reminds us of this subconscious process by painting those memories, as we recall them, on large canvases that place us both within the narrative of our recollections and the actual roadways that crisscross LA.

jill moniz, phd






















© miguel osuna 2015