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Meet the Artist I John Valyrakis

This week, we are introducing the artist John Valyrakis, a visionary artist whose art serves as a window into the intricacies of human emotion and existence. Rooted in a profound exploration of memory and the fleeting nature of life, their work delves into themes of solace, companionship, and the delicate balance between togetherness and apartness. With each brushstroke, they capture the raw spontaneity and timeless essence of the human experience, inviting viewers to immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of emotion and introspection.

Join us as we journey into the captivating world of his, where every canvas is a visual diary of life's fleeting moments.

Can you share with us your artistic journey and how you arrived at your current style and technique using acrylics on canvas?

I remember myself daydreaming and unfocused as a kid, expressing my thoughts by drawing pictures and storytelling sketches. As a teenager, I was captivated by the artworks of the album covers while exchanging music references at school, later on I was admiring the graffiti scene of the 90’s. At some point, architecture caught my attention and looked like a good idea to focus on, though I was still hooked with the art of illustration.  I never stopped drawing and painting during these years. Later on, I was offered a scholarship from the School of Arts at Loughborough University, which I thought was a good sign to leave everything else behind and focus on painting. 

After finishing my Masters. I worked in the UK as a freelance artist while having my own studio. After some years working like this, I returned to Athens and  instantly applied to study at the Athens School of Fine Arts. I am currently working from my own studio in Athens, collaborating with galleries all over Greece, UK and Europe. 

There is no special remedy, I believe that through practice and… more practice, the style evolves. Warm up is always a key element for my routine, especially before going to a large scale.

I am usually painting with acrylic colors when painting on a large scale, as well as with watercolors and gouache, on a smaller scale. I always carry a sketchbook with me, drawing, while having coffee or commuting with the metro around Athens. These sketchbooks are used as references to work on larger scale artworks afterwards.

Your paintings convey a sense of intimacy and privacy, as if viewers are peering into private moments. Can you discuss your intention behind this portrayal and its significance in your work?

The foundation of my interest is rooted in concepts related to the ephemeral and the exploration of how we preserve memory, but often cease to remember. I delve into stories and narratives related to solace, companionship, separation and loneliness; this need for togetherness and apartness. It encompasses essences like power, disturbance and indifference. I strive to capture the spontaneity and emotion of the moment, by visually translating it into fundamental elements of form and color.

I feel my work serves as a visual diary, capturing emotional imprints and moments of existence. The transcendence of past, present and future, the timelessness of the moment,

the timeless here and now.

How do you navigate the tension between detailed observation and spontaneity in your creative process?

I guess that this sense of vulnerability and spontaneity of the moment while painting, is something I am always seeking in my artistic practice and also a constant “struggle” to achieve captivating it. And this does not involve just the theme of the painting, but also my personal connection with the painting, the medium and materials during my practice on a painting session. I try to deconstruct the medium into gesture, motion and time. Like I am almost trying to mark the painting with gestural motions of the hand and to an extent, the whole body. There is a lot of warm up so that I can achieve a flow state of balancing these two you mentioned. 

In a way I am seeking to capture a timelessness of the moment and its spontaneity, while working on a piece. But it is something embodied, like the human body is a vehicle transcending emotion onto canvas, this is how it feels.

The theme of loneliness and companionship seems prevalent in your works. Could you elaborate on how these themes manifest in your paintings?

In a way, I touch upon human existence, using the themes of loneliness and companionship as avenues to explore the essence of the human condition. Loneliness may be the recognition of our individuality, our distinct consciousness and the existential angst that arises from our inherent separateness. In my works, loneliness is portrayed as a fundamental aspect of human existence, highlighting the paradoxical nature of our longing for connection amidst the inevitability of solitude, while companionship on the other hand, emerges as a counterbalance to the existential solitude that pervades our existence. It represents the antidote offering solace, connection, and meaning. I do not seek to reconcile the dichotomy between these two, but rather to illuminate the profound interplay between them and try to translate it through painting gestures with my medium. Loneliness often manifests in my works through solitary figures, disconnected from their surroundings, evoking a sense of longing or yearning for companionship. Moments of physical connection symbolize the inherent human desire for closeness. While certain elements of the composition may be rendered with precision to evoke a sense of realism, some other aspects may be abstracted to invite interpretation and convey the subjective nature of human relationships.

Could you share any specific influences or inspirations behind your art?

I draw my inspiration through people's everyday lives, relationships, and human connections.

Generally speaking, I am influenced by and interested in elements such as time, the human figure, and the sense of musicality of being. Music is a key aspect during my practice, it works as fuel. I try to synchronize my flow with my music playlists that are always playing in the studio- from post rock, to punk rock, jazz and fusion. Gig posters and mural art have also been a huge inspiration since forever.

All photographs copywrites belong to John Valyrakis.


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