Interview: Ljubov Dzuzhynska
Photo: Fabian Martinez
Horacio Quiroz is a surrealist artist based in México City.
How would you define your art for someone who’s not yet familiar with it?
My art is closely connected with the psychological and therapeutic processes that occur within me. In a sense, I’m trying to portray the various emotions of a human condition. More often I find more truth in surrealism than in reality itself.
When did you realize that art was your true calling? Would it be easy for you to switch to something else?
I heard this call since I was a child. Being 4-5 years old it was already clear to me that I would become an artist or an astronaut, but I didn’t like maths, so I had to let go of the latter.
It would be very difficult for me to switch from art to something else, and I can say this from my own experience because I ignored the calling for 20 years. I worked as an art director in advertising agencies for 12 years, and it wasn’t easy for me to cope with the frustration that I experienced while working there.
What does art mean to you?
It’s a way for me to express myself.
Do you have a hard time establishing an identity as an artist?
Yes and no. It was difficult for me to recognize my personality with my own eyes and learn about what was always hidden. The process was both pleasant and tiring. As if you are coming out of the closet about your sexuality, only this time you come out as an artist.
What have you learned about yourself through your art?
Art practice was an excellent teacher, I learned a lot, both personally and professionally. It’s hard to put it all in words, but I’ll try to describe what comes to my mind right now.
First of all, I learned that
in art you and only you are responsible for your work. You and only you are responsible for your success and for your failure.
After working for so many years in a corporation and suddenly switching to studio work exclusively, I was faced with an excessive load of responsibility.
Art taught me to be constant and not be afraid of failures when seeking and pursuing new opportunities. The worst thing they can tell you is ‘no’.
Art continues to teach me that work must be genuine for it to enable a sense of communication for those who see it, for it to be sympathetic. Also, you shouldn’t compare yourself with other artists, because if your work is authentic, you realize that everyone’s path is unique.
Art taught me that in order to receive something, you first need to give.
As an artist, does your work stem from positivity or sources that are darker in their energy?
Usually, everything arises from a darker energy, from unpleasant emotions or events, things that are unpleasant to experience. I like to portray them, because they are an integral part of life. It seems to me that chaos is a catalyst for sorts that leads to change and improvement.
Do you remember the first piece of art or a particular artist that you obsessed over?
I remember that when I was about 9 years old, I receive a Christmas present – a book with the images of Salvador Dali’s work. The book contained many of his pieces of works, many of which had sexual content. I was able to flip through the book only once before my mother hid it somewhere in the house so that I couldn’t look at it anymore, as she found it unsuitable for a child of my age. Nevertheless, I found the place where she hid it and spent hours analyzing the image “The Great Masturbator”. He significantly gained my attention, evoking emotions that I could not explain. He seemed crazy, sickly, magical. Being a child who was educated in an orthodox Catholic environment, I could not understand how one person could at the same time draw virgins, Christ, the Last Supper, and then genitals or erotic scenes. For me, these concepts were completely opposite and it seemed unheard of.
Do you think it’s possible to judge art objectively?
I think so, but for this to happen you must be very knowledgeable about the trajectory, thought process and the historical context of the artist, which will allow you to make judgments with greater objectivity. Despite this, my answer raises some doubts, because sometimes art creates reactions to small intangible factors, such as feelings and sensations.
Was there ever a moment in your life when you were fed up with art? Why?
Oh yeah! I am constantly fed up with art! I would like to be much more responsible and careful with the consumption of images on Instagram. For better or worse, we have access to all kinds of information in the electronic form, and I think I see way more things than my brain can actually process. Sometimes I have a desire to stop this daily consumption of images, because it’s becoming a new type of addiction.
What modern trend irritates or upsets you?
I don’t like trends overall because we become their victims.
What is your definition of beauty and how do you integrate it into your work?
I think that beauty is subjective. My work seeks to find a balance between beauty and the grotesque. We cannot categorically judge opposites, for example, how would you define a sunset, a day, and night? In reality, they all meet at the same time. So my paintings are both grotesque and beautiful.
What was the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen or experienced in your life?
Right now I see the image of the Bacalar Lagoon in my mind, in the Mexican Caribbean, covered in rain.
What does it feel like to witness a piece of art that began as an idea in your mind? How do you feel when looking at a finished piece of work?
Most of the time the ideas that I like most arise spontaneously without me planning them. Every time I over-rationalize and think too much, things don’t end well. The feeling when I finish a piece of work varies, sometimes I feel satisfied, very tired, but happy that it’s done. Then there are times when I am upset, because the result was not what I expected.
How do you reinfuse your art when it’s stale? How do you overcome creative plateaus?
What helps me is the acknowledgment that any creative paralysis will not last forever, because everything is temporary. In order to create you also need time for rest and moments of peace.
Usually, when I go through a creative paralysis, I try to distract myself by using a different drawing technique or exploring a different topic. Or I talk to my friends, write my “morning pages”, and generally try to be very patient and understanding towards myself.
You have to keep working as inspiration will reveal itself in the process of creation.
Do you think it’s necessary for everything to have a deeper meaning in art?
Not always. I believe that art can also be created for the joy of it, or simply because a desire to create art arose.
What are you most proud of?
I am proud that I am doing what I really like and enjoy.
What was the wisest thing you’ve ever heard in your life?
Recently, a phrase that is constantly on my mind is, “Make kin not babies” – Donna Haraway.
What is your goal as an artist?
I don’t know if I have a goal. I just continue to work and be prepared for when new opportunities appear. I would like to be more free. Now, in the quarantine period, my main goal is to return to work in the studio as soon as possible.
What question would you like to be asked on the interview and what would your answer be?
Have you had to adapt your painting practice as a result of COVID-19 and its social consequences?
Yes, I’ve more than 70 days at home. I haven’t been in the studio for 70 days. Before quarantine, I’ve worked on large-format paintings that would be very difficult to paint at home, so during all this time I made drawings that were limited to the conditions I was in.
This series casts doubt on what the pandemic did not allow us to feel globally – we felt different, irritable and vulnerable; that is why from the beginning of quarantine I was amazed at how people perceived my work. As a rule, in a normal state, sympathy does not manifest itself to what we consider grotesque, confrontational or aggressive. But in this strange context in which we are all now, there is somehow a rare identification with it. Today, when we are more vulnerable than ever, it is easier for us to see our own reflection in something else.
And that is exactly what I am asking myself today, who is the other? Who is different today? Is he different from me? Are others what we don’t want to become and never want to be? It seems that today otherness became us. It seems that today we all are not alike. Today we are different, because we are all at risk, today each of us can become infected.
The art series titled “Human Crap” are drawings that take a sculptural form and are displayed in a shop window as rubbish, along with other unnecessary objects such as discarded, obsolete ideas that no longer serve as clashes with the new paradigms.
Translation: Elena Savlokhova