Between Love and Fear: Interview with Horacio Quiroz
Based in México City. After working for several years in advertisment industry, I began my self-taught painting studies in 2013.
I graduated in Graphic Design from Universidad Iberoamericana. Following this, I worked for nearly twelve years as the Creative Art Director for various renowned international advertising agencies, such as Publicis México and Zeta Advertising. As a publicist, I learned to work under pressure on several projects at once; I gained a thorough understanding of how the industry works through dealing with customers, planners, brand managers, designers, producers, models etc.
Despite working full-time as a publicist, my artistic education never stopped, as I was always learning from the work of other art directors and great photographers, whom I was fortunate to work with both here in Mexico and abroad.
In 2013, driven by my passion for the visual arts, I decided to leave behind advertising and devote myself entirely to artistic activity, to somehow reconnect with the spontaneity I had in my childhood. Thus, over the last four years, I have launched myself on a new career path, experimenting with various self-taught techniques of pictorial representation, formats and themes, which have guided how I define my vision and identity as an artist. This change in my life has given rise to deep personal introspection, closely linked to what now shapes my body of work.
My work is a reflection on the human condition, linked intimately to my psychological and therapeutic evolution. I view the body as a mechanism that not only functions physiologically, but as an emotional vessel that contains our entire temporal and spiritual history. In this way, the body perceives matter and space, through which it learns to experience its own humanity.
Everything around us has a dual manifestation. We have day and night, good and evil, feminine and masculine, love and fear, etc. This is so obvious that it is taken for granted. Consequently everything, absolutely everything that exists, has to be composed of the duality of these opposites. In my work, these apparently discordant forces are expressed in the flesh as a single dynamic unity.
Starting with the body’s emotional fluctuation, I explore the oscillation between love and fear as primary antagonistic vital forces, using the human body as a tool to represent the constant movement of our reality. This permits the incarnation of mutant emotions through the creation of impossible anatomies, similar after a fashion to x-rays of the experiences that we undergo as people while evolving.
In the same way, my painting explores the boundaries of the tensions between the aesthetic and the non-aesthetic on the same support. It probes the resulting dichotomous movement between the beautiful and the grotesque.
You went from working in advertising to leaving it behind and becoming a self-taught artist. Can you tell us about that transition and how it affected your work?
No doubt working for many years surrounded by talented creatives in the gestation and production of visual messages educated my eye and my aesthetic conception. I acquired the discipline and understanding to realize that good ideas take time. However, in my case, advertising showed me that which I didn’t want to be.
From my personal point of view, advertising sells via deception, projects idealized scenarios and nonexistent archetypes. Needs and products are newly created to prevent large corporations from losing market share, preying upon people's anxieties.
Advertising generates plausible realities, where there is no room for polarity, much less negative emotion. It presents a reality devoid of substance, where the only purpose (with the sole intention of selling) is to make you believe that buying a certain product will make you "happy".
I was exhausted from being part of this vicious circle that feeds the collective unconscious with ideas and concepts, in which I don’t believe. This situation was compounded by my own extreme anger and frustration at having abandoned drawing and painting for so long (these were natural and extremely satisfying activities during my infancy and adolescence).
Similarly, I was annoyed with myself for ending up working in publicity. Since this had never been a planned decision, but rather where life and circumstances led me
Although being a painter was something I greatly desired, the fear I felt was proportional to my love for doing it. The process was not unlike coming out of the closet, but this time as an artist. I didn’t know what it would be until I was able to actually experience it. Before that, it was nothing more than a vague idealization, a world unknown and undiscovered, somewhere completely cut off from ads and ad agencies.
I built a small studio in my house and locked myself in there to teach myself to paint. This forced me to realize that I needed to rethink what I wanted from my life, where I wanted to direct it and what kind of person I wanted to be. I also realized how closely linked my personal life was to my professional work.
Via psychological therapy and introspection, I have sorted through many personal issues, nothing out of the ordinary, existential problems we all have. The painting also emerged as part of that cathartic process and, just as I did as a child, I took refuge in my drawings to make sense of my existence. The painting now began to function similarly, helping me let go of frustration, fear, and anger.
Accepting that I was petrified with fear was key to moving forward. In the same way, I realized that when you act with love, doors open.
How do you go about starting a new painting?
My process varies from painting to painting. It oscillates between the freedom of expression when drawing/painting and in conjunction with photographic references. Sometimes I start from a mental sketch, sometimes from a photo. I try to visualize an already finished painting, although this visualization changes a lot during the process: Sometimes things turn out very differently to how originally imagined them. As soon as the feeling comes over me I just let it happen, I don’t really pay too much attention to it. I do like to put a lot of emphasis and detail in the eyes because I think they transmit much so much emotion/information. A lack of patience is a big obstacle for me; I struggle to control my temperament and I despair of the process, I need to breathe slowly, relax and maintain communication with the canvas, so as not to get lost. I have a hard time concentrating.
Can you tell us about the distortion of the figure in your paintings? When did you start painting in that style?
My style simply came about, it wasn’t conceptualized. I can’t give you some rational explanation of how it emerged. What I can tell you, is that when I began my career as a painter I was weighed down by years of frustration and career dissatisfaction. So when I decided to change my profession and dedicate myself to art, painting functioned as a catharsis representing the internal exploration of my psychological processes.
Considering that humans are an amalgam of dually-opposed, antagonistic elements such as the body and the spirit, I can view this humanity as a physiological mechanism, but also as an emotional vessel that contains our entire temporal and spiritual history. In this way, the body perceives matter and space, through which it learns to experience its own humanity.
In my work, these apparently discordant, dual forces of reality are expressed in the flesh as a single dynamic unity, as a representation of the movement of the human body. This dynamism facilitates the creation of mutant emotions through the creation of impossible anatomies. Similar, I like to think, to x-rays of people’s experiences while they are in the process of evolving.
How have your paintings evolved over your career?
I guess my style has evolved over a few years I've been painting. Compared now to the past, the color palette is much more varied, the compositions are more complicated and the aesthetic, although still surrealistic, is less grotesque or obscure. My work has always been a reflection of my emotional situation and the evolution can obviously be attributed to that.
Yet I feel my career is too young so I can see a quite clear evolution I think need more time and space to notice it by my self but aesthetically speaking, it would be difficult for me not to continue painting human bodies. However, in terms of specific themes, I have no idea how the content of my work will be developed over time. Actually, I tackle topics such as transsexuality, feminism, homosexuality and emotional disability, because these are the social issues that interest me. In the future I suppose, I will continue to touch on those issues that affect society.
On your website you have a few installations that you have done, can you tell us about those? How did they come about? How was creating them in comparison to creating a painting?
Yes, those installations are composed by drawings, sketches, and quotes during the creative process on the making of a painting or a whole body of work, it is a natural process to me where all the ideas come together. The paper works installations are just about to share what is going on the walls of the studio while creation is taking place and bring that intimate process into the gallery.
This time, I've also been playing with garments for the installations. My interest is to take the painting out of its dimension and propose a different approach to the pictorial image through a three-dimensional object, which in this case is a garment.
What is the best piece of advice you can give to artists looking to transition out of a day job and focus solely on their art?
I would say don’t be afraid and do it as long as your desire is true. You must also plan your finances.
Where do you hope your work will go moving forward?
I don’t like to think about that I prefer to keep working hard and be ready when the opportunity comes.
Finally, I just want to invite you to my solo show "Polarities" in NYC at Booth Gallery on view now through October 20th. This is my debut solo show in the US. The collection includes 11 paintings, 4 of which come paired with garments and almost 50 works on paper.
Photos courtesy of Fabian Ml