First published: Winter 2008
Victória Maria da Conceição Lopes Domingues was born on November 6 1944 in Pombal, Portugal and moved to Lisbon at the beginning of the 1960s. She has worked as a cleaner in private homes and in commercial offices for most of her life. A mother of seven, she has suffered serious financial hardship, and for a while she was forced to rely on a charitable institution in Lisbon for her meals.
In 1995, with no previous art training, Victória began to draw using coloured markers, pencils and crayons on paper. She draws wherever she finds herself, inspired by light reflections and shadows, by stones, trees and flowers, by clothes and hairstyles, by TV programmes and popular magazines, and by the moonlight.
After a while, thinking she was suffering from a mental illness because she saw strange things and drew them, Victória sought psychiatric help. Nevertheless, aware that her work was an essential part of her daily existence, she continued to produce her intimate yet expressive drawings.
Although she works on a small scale, because that is what feels comfortable to her, her drawings show a genuine and breathtaking expressive vigour. In her rich, well-filled notebooks are both finished and unfinished drawings, as well as notes, poems, and references to news and TV programmes, fado music and lottery numbers.
Victória’s completed drawings are densely and elaborately worked, revealing a remarkable sensitivity. Asymmetrically spread over a limited drawing space, her cities house sad people wearing bitter smiles or in tears. Sometimes she draws spirals and snails, or female genitals, symbols of fertility in a vast sea of vegetation. A unifying thread rescues the intricate chequered patterns, metamorphoses, waves and curves, organic and floral ornaments and complex geometrical games and leads the way out of the labyrinth.