Get it’s Kathleen Loxton sits down with Tugan-based artist, and Archibald Prize entrant, Jeska Valk
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the moment you discovered your love for art?
Jeska: My love of art comes from my childhood and having fond memories creating with my mum. She would share her knowledge of art history and artistic skills. When I was older, we travelled to France together where she taught me about the master painters. I was especially drawn to impressionist artists like Renoir, Degas and Van Gogh. Their use of colour and light was mesmerising. It amazed me how beautifully they could capture a story through movement, colour matching and pattern work.
Q: How have you developed your amazing talent as an artist over the past five years?
Jeska: The last five years of my career have been a discovery, from sketching to realism. I enjoy building a piece like a jigsaw puzzle, finding the pattern within the tiny detail in the image. For example, painting the lace in the image of Grace Loves Lace founder Megan Ziems was just another way to add texture, pattern and delicacy. It became a metaphor for how I wanted to portray my work. Focusing on strength, fragility and intricacy.
Q: I understand that you use art as a form of therapy for your epilepsy; while your seizures have been reduced through anti-seizure medication, you find the meditative process and detailed work calming and positive. Have there been any further benefits mentally and physically?
Jeska: Yes, it has taught me how to maintain focus. Physically it has been more of a challenge as I’m usually in one position for hours at a time, but that has taught me to look after myself a lot better.
Q: You have just completed your submission for the Archibald Prize with your exquisite work, a portrait of Grace Loves Lace founder Megan Ziems. When did you decide to enter and what was your inspiration behind this subject? Did it draw from your desire to feature strong and inspirational women?
Jeska: I’ve always been drawn to strong, creative, ambitious women. I have followed Megan’s work for some time and when the opportunity arose (to work with her) I was so taken aback. My obsession with lace and patterns combined with storytelling was the perfect marriage.
Q: What kind of art mediums are you drawn to most and why? For example, pencils, charcoal, water colours etc.
Jeska: I prefer to use oil paints because of the vibrant colours and silky texture.
Q: The Archibald Prize is Australia’s oldest and second richest portraiture prize. Established in 1921, only 10 women have been awarded the prestigious accolade. It is a huge achievement to be submitting your work and representing female artists in this area. What would your message be to women wanting to follow their artistic interests?
Jeska: To any artist wanting to build a career I would say, “Don’t give up, don’t listen to your inner saboteur. Stay strong, listen to others and to yourself, stay true to your aesthetic, find your signature and tell a story.”
Q: Does the Gold Coast provide a source of inspiration or do you go elsewhere to get inspired?
Jeska: Growing up close to the ocean on the Gold Coast has been a huge inspiration. I love the environment and have had two solo shows (Earth Warriors and Beneath the Surface) honouring those protecting our land and seas. My inspiration stems from two points: the strength and fragility of our environment and in turn the strength and delicacy of our selves within society.
Q: You were also a finalist in the 2018 Portia Geach Memorial Awards and now going for the Archibald Prize. What’s next for you?
Jeska: A lot of work! I am planning to put together another show. Keep an eye out!
Jeska is exclusively represented by Art Lovers Australia (artloversaustralia.com.au). Photo credit: Michael Vella