Illustration • Inspiration Rachel Demetz: Coaxing Light Out of Darkness

Based in Barcelona, this young artist is making a name for herself with her mixed-media creations. 

For many of us, art is a source of pleasure; for Rachel Demetz, it has been a lifesaver. Plagued by chronic depression at the age of 18, she decided to enroll in Serra i Abella, a small illustration school near Barcelona. There, she began experimenting with techniques that combined different media.

“I had a deep depression and turned to art to survive,” she says. “I painted a lot when I was a kid and started to play with photography as a teen. Mixing them is a very important part of what I do.”

In her current projects, Demetz often combines found photography with painting. The painting is done manually and then combined using layers in Adobe Photoshop

Demetz found commercial success quite early in her career. Right after she graduated from art school, she received a surprise commission from Costalamel, a streetwear brand based in Barcelona—and she has been an independent artist ever since.

“I really didn’t expect that,” she says. “All my life I thought I couldn’t make a living through my art, and I’d never seriously thought of being an artist.”

Nonetheless, four years later, the 25-year-old Demetz regularly receives commissions for album covers, T-shirts, and fashion marketing—often via her popular Instagram account. She also has a broad portfolio of personal work, in which she explores the relationship between darkness and light.

“I feel very attracted to light, but I know that I have been in dark places and states,” she says. “I think of light as something that you can live with, not just observe. I appreciate the clarity in my life, but I don’t want to leave my dark side; the two have to live together.”

This image, an album cover, is unusual for Demetz in that it uses an original photo (of her best friend). “I really like when I see painting that looks like photograph, or photography that looks like painting,” she says.

While it is perhaps too early to discuss her career arc, these days Demetz is trying to move beyond the confines of the computer. Counting among her influences not only painters and photographers, but also artists like David Bowie, Bill Viola, and even Billie Eilish, she has hopes of soon becoming a multimedia artist and set designer for musicians.

“I like the idea of mixing paint, photography, and video,” she says. “I want to explore new ways to show my art in physical ways and with music.”

Given how well she has done with her surreal and mysterious images, one can only wish her luck as she moves in new directions.

Demetz’s work shares a good deal with the Surrealists’ attempts to depict the underlying psychological reality of the world. “Eyes are very personal to me because I’m an introspective person,” she says. “I love to make monsters to show the real person that I see in there with all of their imperfections.” 

While Demetz nearly always uses faces in her images, she commonly distorts the eyes or conceals them. “In my case, I often wonder how many “I”s can be in the same person,” she says. “We are not the same at home alone, or facing a society that does not know us, or with a very close group of friends. I am passionate about this because maybe I don’t know who I am, and through art I try to discover it.”

 “In my work I try to embrace both the beautiful side and the side that society insists we hide,” says Demetz

One of several of Demetz’s studies of “la mancha” (which roughly translates to “stain” or “mark”). These are the painted patterns that she incorporates into her work but that can also be striking on their own (above). Demetz also favors using strong geometric shapes to conceal parts of her images. “My mom hates it when I do that,” she says, “but I want to make something that is beautiful but hard to see, to create that tension.” 

The mysterious image above is part of a series that Demetz is developing on suicide, a topic with which she is unfortunately all too familiar. The project will eventually incorporate ceramics and projections. The image of the bottle, created for one of Absolut Vodka’s periodic contests, is a bold example of Demetz’s fascination with bringing light out of darkness.

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