The main concerns of the Mexican artist Horacio Quiroz are the human condition, change, and duality in our reality expressed through the body.
an article written by Marie Bertelsen
ARTICULATE #28 | JULY 2021
The freak shows and human circuses of the 18th and 19th century displayed the rarities, unusual and uncommon variations of human beings, and what was shocking and outside the accepted norms. The art of Horacio Quiroz (b. 1987) is also a display of the deformed, the curiosities of the human body and mind. Quiroz’ main themes are the human condition, change, and duality in our reality expressed through the body. The initial dizziness and confusion of the artwork might make you wonder whether you have an ocular migraine, if it is a temporary vision loss. Perhaps it gives us this initial reaction because we are used to the expected, the understandable, and the comfortable parts of the world. We are used to dealing with neat surfaces. What Quiroz’ portrays are both the internal and external freak show.
You get dizzy, confused, and the seemingly sick people make you want to pull your hair, twist in your seat, and pull the skin in anguish. It is like an ocular migraine, temporary vision loss due to spasm of blood vessels in our eyes. Well, you retrace your steps and squint your eyes wondering.
I believe Quiroz knows exactly what he is doing and whether it sprung from a conscious or subconscious source, the intention sends a clear message. While the objects of human beings are contorted, stretched, and twisted, what strikes the viewer are the warm and comfortable colors accompanying. Quiroz has previously quoted Carl Jung: “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” In the same way, by displaying the grotesqueness of distorted and blurred bodies in bright pastel colors, the oddities come into the light. Suddenly, the abnormalities seem less spooky and frightening, and somehow less bizarre. If we were to see these motives in a dark alley or under our bed late at night, our reactions would surely be different. In a way, it displays and normalizes the weirdness, which is also his aim. Acceptance. For instance, the title of one of his artworks “Let the boys be feminine“ speaks for itself.
How and why does he choose these subjects? Quiroz says it is not a clear choice. As he develops the sketch, the idea and motive of the painting on the canvas changes, and as he continues the idea takes shape in his head. This can lead to last minute changes of the phrases that will accompany the canvas, and ultimately the title of the piece. The particular themes of each piece arise from the personal wondering of Quiroz. The various areas have been of sexuality, feminism, gender, emotions, and self-knowledge. We have to acknowledge the humorous aspect of his work. One artwork is a testicle resembling-person presented in a haute couture-fashion style on a white background. It is a spring collection that is a part face, part scrotum floating orb. He calls part of his artwork “postporn”, and it is quite clearly sexual in the way the body parts pretzel into each other. Of course, his art deals with deep, philosophical matters, but it is not boring at all. It’s quirky mostly.
The preferred media Quiroz uses to convey these thoughts are primarily oil painting because of the brilliance of its colors and the versatility of its use. It is a medium that can be used in many ways. He also makes use of and enjoys pencil and pastels which he has used since childhood, where he drew labyrinths, traps, and intricate small worlds. Quiroz usually make pencil or digital sketches where everything is defined before starting to paint. Most commonly, he has a clear idea beforehand, but there are always changes in the painting process. He enjoys when the painting happens in an unplanned and more organic way, letting the paint emerge by itself. If painting becomes boring, it will from time to time lead him to paint in other spontaneous ways, such as his last exhibition where Quiroz explored cutting the canvas into pieces.
He decided to add the canvas cutouts to the painting, creating a new expression. Perhaps this is why, when asked about inspiring artists, the common theme is spontaneity. Quiroz mentions the Austrian artist Egon Schiele (1890 – 1918), George Condo and Adrian Ghenie all grabbing his attention due to the freedom and playful sense of their painting. This is imagined and interpreted as a liberating process. As for the compositions, they are usually defined by the axes and the direction of the composition, combined with a good choice of colours for each element within the painting. In a humble manner he asks: “I feel like I am still learning to make good compositions, do you know any tips?”
Quiroz is inspired by hermeticism where the main teachings are that all is movement and where everything pendulates between two poles and extremities. He explains the world as a dual manifestation, day and night, good and evil, and aesthetic and non-aesthetic. For instance, gender is both masculine and feminine all in one. And the body is opposite to the mind and spirit. Therefore, the body is a focal point in Quiroz’ art, because it allows us to see what we are and what we are not. The body is a mechanism dealing with our physical state, and the opposite is our spirit and emotions.
It is an object which is in constant movement and constantly evolving. The real inspiration comes from the people who surround his life, the constant struggle each of them experience in their own unique way. This motivates him not to give up, and instead by empathetically observing and analysing how people change over time, Quiroz is able to pinpoint the transformations and create art from it. One of his biggest challenges personally has been to accept himself for who and what he is. For the positive, but above all the negative, accepting every part that he does not like about his personality, temperament, and physique. Because in the end it will always be part of ourselves, so it is better to be alert to identify it, he says. Embrace it and learn to live with it.
The reason Quiroz started painting, as late as 8 years ago, has changed. At first, he was pursuing the dream of being able to be a painter and to have that lifestyle, especially after having worked 12 years in advertising agencies. But now the drive is the love of simply being able to express reality as he observes it and having the fear of not continuing to do so. Today, there is not one specific reason, other than the very reasonable goal of staying sane and keeping oneself occupied. Especially during the pandemic, having his studio and work has helped Quiroz stay centred. He explains it as painting being what he knows how to do, and something which rescues him and gives him a reason to continue. In that way, painting is the act and the motive at the same time.
He goes as far to say there is no other option, since it is, yes, the pleasure of doing it, but not possible to see himself in another way.
We can distil some advice on life and being from the interview with Horacio Quiroz.
First of all it is not always the right thing to share everything with your friends, family, and market. Instead, he says, you sometimes first need to delve into your emotions undisturbed. This means accepting them and respecting the moments in which you feel lost and outside yourself. Quiroz urges us to create art from what we personally want in our lives, and not from what others would like to see from you. Finding your voice is a constant challenge in life, he says, but if you recognize it is an ongoing process, it will help you. If you do this, you can create work that is authentic. Second of all, instead of comparing oneself to others, instead recognize each trajectory and path as unrepeatable and different from artist to artist. In continuation of the hermeticism, Quiroz sees these emotions and periods in life as coming and going, and he tries to take advantage of each moment where there is a special connection with yourself or with someone else.
This article about Horacio Quiroz takes part of the 28th magazine, ARTICULATE #28. Read, download or order your print version of the full publication below.