Since the start of this year, Visual Artist Geray Mena has been making amazing visuals to support our collections. From his Growth and Development editorial to his Work From Home visuals, Geray always knows how to catch our brand aesthetic while simultaneously creating something uncanny and interesting in his own signature style. In this episode of Citizens, we asked the Spanish artist about his work, and his views on the world in 2020.

04 Mar 2020

Jurjen Beelen

Hola Geray, on your website you describe yourself as a “visual artist and image-maker.” What’s the difference between them?

“The difference is that a photographer takes a picture of reality, while I try to create a new reality. In my work, I create new environments and sculptures. During my time at the visual academy in Madrid, I was not only focused on photography. It is a bit too narrow for me. Sometimes my work doesn’t even involve a camera."

It’s easy to describe your work a certain way, but as a visual artist, how would you characterize your work?

“Chaotic, haha. I like to get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself as much as I can. both visually and conceptually.”

Does that involve a lot of post-production?

“Not as much as you might think. I never do any retouching, and when I do postproduction I usually work together with RGB Berlin and Studio Wolfram. They know how to make everything look exactly how I want it."

You studied both in Madrid and in Amsterdam (at Rietveld Academy), how did that education shape you to the artist you are now?

“To be honest, Madrid didn’t bring me that much. So when I was done, I was kind of stuck and didn’t know what to do with my life. I started traveling around and assisted some photographers in Paris and London before I had the idea to go back to school. That really changed me and the way I approach my work. The freedom of the Rietveld Academy as well as the city of Amsterdam made me fall in love with my work again.”


Geray Mena is a visual artist living and working in between Madrid and London. Following his BA from Gerrit Rietveld Academie he started producing meticulously detailed staged images that examine the semiotics of contemporary image production, dancing in the lines in between autonomous and applied art. Working in a variety of media, including photography, video, and installation, his multifaceted practice incorporates references from seventeenth century spanish and dutch paintings to the early advertising images, synthesizing the essentials of photography with elements from other art forms such as classical painting and cinema.

Now you are also a teacher yourself, how do you ignite those same discoveries in your students?

“I’m teaching at a couple of academies in Madrid and I do workshops abroad. Mostly about the boundaries between commercial work and art. I think that’s the most important discovery: if you look at recent developments, the distinction between art and commerce has pretty much evaporated. Beyond that, I try to make future generations aware of what’s going on in the world and the systems that lie behind it. Movements like feminism and antiracism are things I value and I think they are important for an artist to acknowledge. I’m not trying to impose my views on them, but the work you make reflects your ideas. A great picture is not just a pleasant thing to look at, it should have an impact.”

Are your personal views part of your work as well?

“Absolutely. The work is so much about who you are and where you position yourself. I think I create in an intuitive way so I can’t really have distance from my work. Because I’m in the middle, I can’t step out of it so far.”

To me, your work seems very product-focused, how do you still manage to add those values into your work?

“Somehow my work became quite object-oriented in the last few years. That grew organically. I shoot many still lifes because you don’t need a big budget to make them. But I wouldn’t say that I’m a still life photographer at all. Lately, I´ve been doing fashion and documentary as well. That variety is what I love most. If you look at the great artists in history, they don’t follow one straight path or genre at all. It also excites me to flip the anachronic hierarchy of genres. Still lifes are still being undervalued if you compare it to animal painting, landscapes, genre, portraits, and history paintings.”

Your last shoot for us was made during quarantine and depicted various “work from home” situations, how did you create those?

“I live in one of those gentrified neighborhoods of Madrid, and I am lucky enough to have a place where I can both work and live. We chatted with Paolo and Olaf, and we tried to brainstorm about ideas. I tried to figure out what I could do in the limited space and time we had. I invited two friends who live nearby, we ordered some props, and had some fun. One of the things I love about my work is the collaborative process. That’s why I live in Madrid, I can work with the people I trust.”

Spain was heavily hit by COVID-19, what was that like for you?

“I was mostly at my studio and I rarely went out. I don’t follow the news that much either, so a lot of things went by me. Workwise it was an interesting time. Because I don’t need huge sets or teams, I was able to still do a lot of work. I did a story for the latest issue of Wallpaper magazine, which I haven’t seen yet because all the shops are still closed, and I just did a story for Amazing - Closing Ceremony, my favorite magazine from Shanghai.”

During the lockdown, what has inspired you most?

“My friends! We’ve gone on zooms and walks while having a lot of good conversations during the quarantine. Sometimes until deep in the night. Both stupid jokes and deep conceptual thinking. This is something we already did before quarantine, but during times like these, you come to realize how important these things are.”

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