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by Tenebrous Kate

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Walpurgisnacht orgies, Inquisitorial tortures, and a pornographic pieta: once encountered, the work of Chilean artist Cristóbal López cannot be forgotten. His luxuriously detailed illustration style depicts unflinchingly dark erotic imagery, birthing art that simultaneously entices the eye and drops the jaw. It should come as no surprise that his work graces the covers of albums by extreme metal bands like Weregoat and Tannhäuser Krieg, but don’t mistake López for another shock-art clone. He possesses a classicist’s discipline as well as a respect for art history and occult symbolism.

Extraction

López began his artistic journey as a child. His parents kept him and his brothers close to home to shelter them from the dangers of their neighborhood, encouraging them in their creative pursuits. López studied art beginning in first grade, but he points out that there was little academic basis to this education. Instead of learning how to prepare canvases and mix colors, students were simply equipped with materials and allowed to create freely. López has a deep reverence for the work of the old masters and in discussing his influences, he speaks enthusiastically of Goya’s Disasters of War and the work of Pieter Bruegel. The lack of rigorous discipline in the training he received frustrated him. After finishing with his schooling, he went into a career in commercial art. “I was able to draw fast, but not well,” he told me with a laugh. It began to dawn on him that this path was not one that would provide him with any degree of satisfaction.

Everything changed for López in 2015 when he was hospitalized with a respiratory condition. Emotionally and physically drained, he envisioned a life spent drawing other people’s ideas, never realizing his potential. Rather than admitting defeat in the face of illness and depression, López was driven to refine his skills and dedicate his efforts to building a body of work that reflected his tastes and ambitions. He began to take inspiration from the artwork he saw online, combining his self-guided study of the Old Masters with the delicate etching-style techniques of artists like Aaron Horkey. The rapid evolution of his style has surprised him. “I didn’t start drawing very well until maybe two or three years ago, and I’m pretty excited about how far I’ve come. I’ve had a chance to invent my own style because no one ever taught me properly,” López told me. His work gravitated towards the erotic themes that had always fascinated him, combined with an emerging interest in extreme metal he developed after his wife exposed him to this aesthetic universe.

The Forest Treat

His exposure to a global audience came via an unlikely source: Instagram. Working independently in his studio on increasingly dark and intricate images, López shared his art with a small group of followers. All that changed when one of his pieces was reposted by the Monsters Holding Bitches account. Where he had been creating art with little to guide him aside from his own sense of taste, he now had validation that what he was creating had an enthusiastic audience eager for his brand of blasphemous beauty. He sums up his rapid rise in visibility: “Seeing Slash from Guns N’ Roses playing a concert while wearing a t-shirt with my artwork on it was something I never imagined.”

López doesn’t take his provocative imagery lightly. His early interest in history and culture is very much alive, and now he applies this natural curiosity to learning more about occult practices. Though not a practitioner himself, he has a great enthusiasm for mystical symbolism. A friend introduced him to the tarot during the early stages of his artistic reawakening and its treatment of traditionally malevolent figures like the Devil and Death resonated with him. For López, the Devil is a symbol of creativity and freedom, an interpretation that’s evident in his depictions of demonic sex. There’s an orgiastic ecstasy present in many of his images that speaks less of evil and more of the unbridled subconscious.

Pieta Khe

Naturally, such themes are not in line with all tastes and López has repeatedly run afoul of Instagram’s notoriously prudish censors. He is currently on his fifth account and though he regrets losing touch with some of his fellow artists due to constant profile deletions, he has a pragmatic attitude. “I’m not going to censor myself, so I’m ready to get deleted over and over again,” he says. “I’m just going to make my art and people will learn where to find me.”

In an effort to move out of the ephemeral world of Instagram, López has launched a crowdfunding campaign to print a lavish book of his works titled Drawn into Darkness. “The book is the end of a process,” he tells me. “Since I’ve reached what I wanted to reach, I’ve found my style and a way to speak through my art.” The book displays a diverse collection of art, demonstrating the development of his work since his creative rebirth. As has been the case ever since López reclaimed his creative output, he will oversee all aspects of the book’s design and construction.

Red Witch

With his style now defined, López has ambitious plans for future works. While he has several commissions for bands in the works (including a piece depicting a ghoulish, priapic Adam confronted by a seductive Eve for the Black Dahlia Murder), he wants to dedicate his energy towards long-term projects. He is currently designing a tarot deck based on the imagery found in the Tarot of Marseilles and we spoke about his interest in graphic storytelling. Given his extreme discipline and the breathtaking body of work he’s created thus far, it’s certain we’ll be seeing more of Cristóbal López’s art in the future.

Cristóbal López aka Kerbcrawler Ghost

Learn about the crowdfunding campaign for Drawn into Darkness on Indiegogo.

Follow Kerbcrawler Ghost on Instagram (for now…)

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