Coco Dávez

The Artist who Erased the Face of the ‘Star System’

09/12/2019 · By Teresa Morales
The artist posing next to several of her creations (Frida Kahlo, Yayoi Kusama, Andy Warhol, Grace Jones and David Lynch). © Coco Dávez

Her name and work appears, both in Spain and abroad, on TV commercials, beverage and perfume packaging design, exhibition halls, art books, and fashion stores. And, of course, on Instagram. Coco Dávez’s artistic universe is expanding endlessly.

Valeria Palmeiro (Madrid, 1989), known artistically as Coco Dávez, started painting in 2010, at the age of 21. “That year was absolutely magical. I began posting my first illustrations on social media and projects soon started rolling in, especially from the publishing world. There were also group exhibitions, one in Santiago, Chile, and another one in Madrid at La Casa Encendida. And then my first solo show in Lisbon.” But, as it usually happens when a story starts out so well, at some point things stopped going swimmingly for her. “My return to Madrid coincided with the downturn in the publishing world. Everything looked rather grim and there was no work, so I was pretty demoralized. I decided to stop and do something completely different.” Valeria reinvented herself, giving an unprecedented boost to her artistic career. Since 2013, she hasn’t stopped working since 2013 and her success rising, thanks mainly to her internationally-acclaimed Faceless collection.

Do mistakes help you enough to become better and bigger?

Mistakes teach you the most important lessons, as well as times of crisis. Mistakes point to where things aren’t working, and crisis help you see what needs improvement or a radical shift. These are very helpful phases, along with periods of frustration when you have no direction to go. You’re forced to try out different things and find whatever is it that makes you feel most comfortable and identified with.

How has your work benefited from those small mistakes and difficult times?

Faceless, the largest collection I have done so far and the one I enjoy the most was born from a mistake in a period of crisis. I was going through a creative phase I didn't feel comfortable with; I was quite bored with the style I was developing. Painting became a burden, and that set off the alarms—something wasn’t going well. So one day I decided to pick up the acrylics and use only primary colours to see what came out of that. I portrayed Patti Smith and the result was disastrous. I knew I would throw it away, so I erased her face with red brushstrokes. However, I was still able to see Patti, a faceless Patti. I tested with other artists I have always admired and posted the paintings on social media for people to guess who they were, and that’s how Faceless was born.

So that painting was the starting point for the Coco Dávez that today is easily recognizable everywhere.

In a sense it was because Faceless grew on the canvas, but it also meant creating a whole universe of colours reminiscent of childhood, with simple but sharp shapes that then became stage designs, shop windows, clothes…

Red, blue, green, bright yellow... Your colour combination is natural and spontaneous?

On the one hand, there is a lot of colour psychology, which is fun, wide-ranging and interesting. On the other, there is my personal process. When I start projects, I like to set limits and certain guidelines on the colour combinations I can use, although there always comes a time when I need to push the limits and widen my colour palette. And there is a third factor to consider—colour is a language that provides a lot of information; grey expresses something completely different than red or yellow. I study the character’s personality and translate it into colours.

What colours would never enter Coco Dávez’s universe?

At first I remember saying things like “I would never use browns!” Now, however, I’m more into the usual “never say never." It’s fun to evolve to finally say “I’ll never” when starting a new project. It's like opening a new window.

"It’s fun to evolve to finally say 'I’ll never' when starting a new project" 

It's like opening a new window.Valeria or Coco? At this point I don't know how to address you. Would you still be as creative if you hadn’t had the chance to do all these great collaborations and work with such great brands?

Creativity doesn’t depend on your work’s visibility. Great collaborations help your work reach more people, but in my case the projects that have helped me advance are precisely my personal ones, with no brands behind. When the project is yours, you have the freedom to take it where you, and only you, want to.

And what about talent? Is it something that you discover it by a stroke of luck?

I think there are many factors. There is the Internet, which is a very powerful tool that enables you to reach every corner of the planet. And there is a small percentage of luck that is enhanced by perseverance, effort, work... Luck alone doesn’t work without this.

Can you imagine an Iberia fleet designed by Coco Dávez?

That would be a dream! Calder did it once and it’s one of my favourite projects by him. Count on me if there are any proposals. Besides, Iberia uses my favourite colours: red and yellow!


She is a versatile artist who one day writes a book and the next is showing her work at the Maddox Gallery in London or designing clothes for a fashion firm. She loves travelling because “it opens your eyes and your mind to new shapes and new ways of doing and designing. All that stays with you and, sooner or later, it reappears in your creative process.” However, when faced to choose between two cities, she doesn’t show much nostalgia and gives a categorical answer: “London was my first love, and Madrid is my love now. So, Madrid.”

Coco is a self-taught artist who says she deeply enjoys investigating on her own, preferably into artists that have influenced her: Miró, Warhol, Basquiat, Helen Frankenthaler... "But if I had to choose, I’ll go for Picasso, Kusama, and Hockney."

She hopes 2020 brings her new projects —another book, her own fashion brand — and that life continues giving her the gift to enjoy everything she is doing. Cheerful, friendly, organized, talented (indeed!), sensitive... Sure, but there’s also what she considers her Achilles’ heel. "I wish I had a great voice to sing, it's my frustrated dream," she says with a laughter. But that is not really important because, artistically speaking, Valeria-Coco Dávez knows very well how to sing and strike the right note.