Thursday, April 23, 2015

Interview with Tinam Valk

Sanssouci Triptych III by Tinam Valk

Tinam Valk is a German-born, well-traveled artist living and working in the Washington, D.C. metro area who lived in the Netherlands for most of her childhood and young adult life. Her paintings - visuals ranging from doorways and architectural elements to natural landscapes to the intangible - are highly textured and have an ethereal quality. Her style also ranges - from realist to more abstract. She studied at the Royal Academy of Visual Arts in The Hague and received a post-baccalaureate degree in visual communications at the Maryland College of Art and Design. Her work has been exhibited extensively in DC, Maryland, Virginia, New York and New Jersey.

Her website is She agreed to answer some questions about what's behind her work...

Arts Community Connection: Describe your method and aesthetic.

Tinam Valk: I am interested in subjects with layers, either emotional or actual layers through age and history, as seen in old structures, buildings, etc. I try to convey this feeling through my application of materials on the canvas or paper, i.e. modeling paste, sand, soil, leaves etc, and a variety of mixed media (oil, pastels, charcoal) and erasing and building up again. I am not interested in telling the viewer what to see, hence my rather spare titles, and prefer their own emotional response to each image.

ACC: What has been your most important training as an artist…what most helped you develop your method and aesthetic?

Tinam: First the foundation..building up technique ( and still working every day on it), after that finding your 'own voice' which means a lot of introspection. Studying art and artists and doing art as often as possible, being disciplined certainly helps. Critiques are helpful during the 'foundation years', later on you have to do what you have to do.
ACC: You have been painting full-time since 1996. Did the transition from part-time illustrator/educator/artist to full-time artist have impact on your work?

Tinam: Definitely, (in terms of) doing my own thing and more time to develop that...with all the struggles involved...but the pay-off is very satisfying.

Tiegnes by Tinam Valk

ACC: You've said ambiguity is the subject of your work. To quote you: "Either ambiguity of shelter, as in my architecture-related paintings, or ambiguity of nature (landscape) as in some of my other work." Could you elaborate on what you mean by "ambiguity of shelter" and "ambiguity of nature"? 
Tinam: On a psychological level either comfort and security or a place of discomfort or worse. As in actual structures, a place of beauty, well-kept or in a decrepit state (my favorite) and ruins. Buildings themselves have a lot of meaning for me, they carry a history of people and places, lives lived and so on..I love this quote by Rico Lebrun: "I am not in love with decay, but I am in love with an object that has experienced some kind of existence". In 'ambiguity of nature' the same comfort and beauty or extreme discomfort.
ACC: You were born in Berlin and moved to the United States in 1976. Does being a transplant - someone who grew up one place and lives in another…versus someone who, say, travels frequently but has always been an American, or a German, does this have impact on your work? If so, has that impact changed over time? 

Tinam: I think it does have an impact, because of an array of multiple cultural influences. I don't feel as rooted (which I like, or better said I don't know anything else) since my roots are German, Dutch and Indonesian. I don't belong anywhere specifically and everywhere at the same time which I think is a great advantage. One is more open to different views and cultures and less limited. And no, the impact hasn't changed.
ACC: You've traveled a great deal - around Europe, to Africa and South America… Before hurricanes damaged much of the Carolina coast communities, you retreated annually to Hunting Island, South Carolina and have said that doing so inspired your art. How did you discover this place and what about it inspired you? Maybe it's time to go back and scout out a new sanctuary!

I was travelling home from Florida and staying overnight in Beaufort, South Carolina -  and saw this flyer about an unspoiled palm island 20 miles away, so I checked it out and couldn't believe my beautiful! I did find a new sanctuary this is Edisto Isle, but nothing like Hunting Island. HI mostly inspired me because of the undeveloped state of the place and the beautiful vegetation, I am partial to that Southern look of white oaks and spanish moss, Palmetto trees. Mainly though it was being able to spent some time in solitude and having my private retreat at a very reasonable price!

Root V by Tinam Valk

ACC: Is there a question you've always wanted to be asked?

Tinam: Yes...'How important is art to you?
ACC: What is your answer?

Tinam: It is basically 'my religion' and it is something nobody can take away from you, one always has it, no matter what happens in life. I don't mean just my own activity, but every aspect of it...from art education to 'art gossip'.

(Jameson Freeman 
interviewed Tinam Valk on behalf of the Arts Community Connection)


  1. What a wonderful interview with a talented and intelligent artist. I am in awe of her work and inspired by her words.

  2. We were so glad to interview her, Kenneth!