Andrew Valko is a Winnipeg-based artist who paints representational (realistic) paintings navigating voyeurism, escapism, and the influence of technology on relationships. Recurring throughout his works are people in roadside motel rooms, behaving as if they were alone, often nude and expressing quiet forms of contemplation and desire.
Andrew Valko is a Winnipeg-based artist who paints representational (realistic) paintings navigating voyeurism, escapism, and the influence of technology on relationships. Recurring throughout his works are people in roadside motel rooms, behaving as if they were alone, often nude and expressing quiet forms of contemplation and desire. By inviting us into these private, transitory spaces, Valko opens up a wide interpretative field that delves into the human experience of detachment and longing.
For those who have travelled along the vast highways of North America, you will be familiar with the image of a lonely motel set against a bleary, endless horizon; driving by, seeing the windows illuminated, perhaps you've wondered who has stopped in for the night, midway to an unknown destination. In an interview with Mayberry Fine Art, Valko identifies the motel room as “an artificial environment,” a place away from reality, loaded with anxiety and tension; together in a strange land, two people can encounter each other and embrace the fleeting fantasy. When alone, they seek technology as the antidote to loneliness, messaging lovers online and making private films; hence, the presence of computers and digital cameras throughout Valko’s portraits.
We asked Valko how his work speaks to facets of Canadian psychology and identity. “My work speaks to not just Canadian identity, but to North American identity,” he responded. “The unique geography of North America contributes to its culture of the detached encounters, distance, isolation, and silence that can exist in the fragile and complicated relationships between men/women, men/men, women/women, or any combination there of.”
Bodies vie for attention while the hockey game plays; couples disrobe silently in unfamiliar bathrooms; camcorders are aimed at unseen subjects of desire. Using the nude body as a canvas for emotional expression—along with subtle clues scattered around the rooms—Valko allows the viewers to interpret the story themselves, becoming at once curious and empathetic to the melancholic interludes that often rupture human connection. “The viewers are watching men and women behind neatly drawn curtains and homey facades, confronting their fragile and complicated sexual relationships, their personal secrets, fears, and desires,” Valko explains. “Their defenceless posture and nudity emphasizes their vulnerability and supports the narrative in the paintings.”
Valko recently finished two one-person exhibitions at Douglass Udell Gallery, one in Vancouver and one in Edmonton. He is currently working on new paintings that will be featured in late October at the Toronto Art Fair with Mayberry Fine Art. In the fall, he will be painting the portrait of the retiring speaker of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly. We look forward to following his fascinating contributions to the Canadian contemporary art scene.