In Portugal, the two artists who have most and best explored the world of animation are Francisco Queiros (Lisbon, 1972) and Miguel Soares (Braga, 1970). In both of them we can detect a fascination for staging aviolent, cruel worW that the inherent characteristics of animation sweeten and render more palatable.
The two of them reflect ironically on their context and reality; Soares does so directly, whereas Queirós disguises his crude subject so that we only see it at the end. This cruelty is, however, a feature of many works made in the world of animation. Perhaps the root of this tendency can be explained by the popularity of violent games because of their ability to create an uninhibited feeling in relation to the cultural values imposed by education and society.
In contrast, the violence at the heart of works by Francisco Queirós, is better concealed, and he sticks totwo timelines, one hiding a second story or pot ending. Using gentle, pleasant, childhood imagery he tells the cruelest stories which rub against the sympathy he makes us feel for the main character. An exploration of his works entails entering into a tentative struggle, into a kind of disturbing ambivalence that plays with conflicting feelings, from an initial attraction to caution and finally to absolute despair.
His characters play with setting in motion a mechanism of attraction and repulsion and with generating a wide range of reactions in the mood of the person observing them. Consequently, one's initial identification with the cuteness of the characters can turn into wholehearted rejection. The emphasis, therefore, is on the psychological and the emotional, invariably using a story, one could describe as sentimental or nostalgic, that reminds us of childhood imagery that can move us to the extent of making us sympathetic, then begrudgingly conspiratorial and finally regretful of our initial bond with the characters proposed by the artist.
The similarity to the world of videogames is undeniable, especially if we consider the context in which Francisco Queirós stories or actions —always concise and summarized— are set. Sound and imagetransport us into creative, invented worlds that prove quite believable, despite being ultimately the outcomeof animation, and end up involving us in the action. If one is to fully understand the artist's intentions, thenone must clearly abandon the mistaken belief that categorizes video games as a genre made for children,devoid of cultural content or value.
When I referred to the stylistic similarities between Francisco Queiros' video animations and video games, I was thinking about the development of a story, of an elaborate plot, of a script in which there are a wealth of characters and elements, both referential and metaphorical, that generate patterns of behaviour for the player, in this case a spectator alive with emotions. In my opinion, therefore, we are not dealing with an action game but with a graphic adventure that allows us to process and digest what happens; and as such the goal is reflection, experience and sensation.
The works of Francisco Queirós are infused with a strong element of irony, and perversity too. Using a series of metaphoric-realities, meaning is perverted and certain ethical standpoints are questioned, movingbetween the dramatic and the absurd.
The passage of time signifies a coming of age, and the signs and characters that Francisco Queirós takes from children's imagery act as the bearers of a type of almost unconscious, symbolic violence. Everything in his works relates to that world of seeming happiness that is childhood —cuddly toys, colourfull birds, simple drawings, fairytale Landscapes— an essentially playful flavour that is stripped away to reveal a world of violence —an example of this being all his versions of Friezenwall, How could I miss you?, The world without you and Exceptionally Soothing Cream for Upset Skin —as well as his sexually explicit —Slush Puppies and An Overflowing of Desire; and even some parts of The Dilemma. It is as though these pieces by Francisco Queirós worked according to a Logic of Layers, and when one Layer is polished another sensitive landscape appears below.
In his recent videos he confers this lack of questioning of certain things we accept as normal with resignation and impotence to the impossibility of a female angel to Leave the ground, depicted as a black mermaid instead of the mythical blonde beauty most often used to represent this figure, and a female centaur that hides her breasts. Queirós questions our history using the absurd and the mythological, depicting a female centaur and a black, transsexual mermaid, to repeatedly frustrate our expectations.
The three pieces work in the manner of a triptych with a common denominator: the main figures —angel, mermaid and centaur— are mythological or fantastic beings that display sexual ambiguity, whose nature is undefined. The mythological tradition is mixed with elements of contemporary urban culture such as piercing, tattooing and transsexuality; to create a second Level of interpretation product of de-contextualization, the break or fissure that is the hallmark of Francisco Queirós' stories.