Feeling alive is a muse says Silvia Grav, a Spanish photographer, and creative director currently based in Los Angeles, California. In a style all her own, Grav depicts often surreal images in ominous tones that lay at the quintessence of the human experience. To feel alive as one form of inspiration is equally translated in the psyche embedded in Grav’s unique images. As far as we know, we are the only creatures with the gift and curse of consciousness, condensed in potent vessels that survive wars and revel in pleasures all in one lifetime, so it is this that the eyes and mind ponder upon Grav’s work. There is clear pain in the tints, distorted bodies, and faces blurred into voids that dare to ask: is this mere emptiness or space for hope?
At the age of 17, Grav began photographing herself out of curiosity. She describes herself as often obsessively curious with all she has yet to understand. Within a year she began to receive recognition, and at the age of 19 Grav began freelancing and was awarded one of the best photographers under 20 by Flickr.
“They brought me to the USA and I fought to stay for three years until I made it.”
Once in the U.S., her work shifted from photography to design. She has since worked for hit shows like American Horror Story and True Detective in addition to directing music videos. Grav’s work has appeared in media sites such as The Huffington Post, VICE, Juxtapoz, Communication Arts, My Modern Met, and This is Colossal. Grav has also exhibited and worked on various projects globally with companies such as Elastic, Prologue, Imaginary Forces, and Antibody for clients such as HBO, CBS, FX, Universal Records, Lexus, Concord Music, ANTI-Records and Ninja Tune.
A still frame from Silvia’s work for ‘True Detective’ season 3, main title.
A commissioned still photo created by Silvia.
When asked about experiencing art as therapy rather than work, Grav responded honestly,
“It was the way I fell hard for photography. I had been covering emotions and emotional traumas for a long time, and as a teenager, all of that exploded into attacks of rage first, and into photographs later, when I discovered I could put all that energy somewhere else. I didn´t realize how much of a therapeutic process it was until much later when I understood that I was just transforming trauma into something manageable and shareable.”
Grav’s photos and designs, like life, leave much to the interpretation of memories, related to through the internal revolutions of the mind. Earnest expressions, contorted figures, and firey elements dominate the artist’s images in elegant visual prose. And so it is fitting that the titles, or arguably epigraphs, of her pieces, drip with equal lyricism, demanding the viewer take a stroll down their own shadowed alleys.
On sources of inspiration, Grav’s candid response illustrates, predominantly in the latter half, her intangible yet concrete muses:
“Tough one. My own life, which includes: strangers. Some songs I will repeat for weeks. Countless documentaries, biographies, painters, filmmakers. The summer night breeze, jumping in rivers, being alone, feeling alive, wishing everyone else could see some things I have seen. Wishing I could see them again.”
Moments when we feel utterly alive, that later leave us lost in reverie, ironically living in another time and place past, go hand in hand with the question of our own mortality. The existential crisis that lingers despite our frequent avoidance. Grav’s creations tell the story of darkness that cannot exist without light, demise -the counterpart of life, and the same that can hold no hope without pain. The cathartic experience of Grav’s work executes the realities of life we cleverly evade daily but are necessary for living with intent.
Currently, Grav continues to work on her craft and describes little change from pre-quarantine times, “I wake up, look at my phone, fill my body up with anxiety, try to convince my boyfriend to make me a latte, work for a bit, get my brain fried, work on the garden, back to work, a few calls to friends and repeat. Masterclass and 3D youtube classes have been pretty great to dip into, too.” One of Grav’s biggest projects is her soon-to-be-launched production company and design studio: Tivuron, one we’ll be sure to look out for from this artist who works with pure conviction.
All photos by Silvia Grav.
Text and Curated by Romina Bertetti.