Loud, vivacious colors, splashed liberally on canvas, characterize the verve and spirit of Mina Valyraki’s work. Her cranes, taxis and cars literally quiver with movement. The theme of her exhibition, Metallic Reflections, is modern in the best sense of the word: the subject matter of her works are well-known and instantly recognizable objects of modernity.

The first set of objects are the mechanical arms used to build high-rises, the industrial crane. Here black cranes loom over distant horizons, rise up against the yellow sky, possible the exhaust of work furnaces. Cranes lend themselves to trigonometric shapes, so her canvas reveals a criss-crossing of triangles. The black shapes are set against crocus and cadmium yellow sunsets and reveal the glittering life of an industrial season at full throttle. The industrial cranes are also done against a background of blue cobalt and other lighter blue hues, and this lends to the black triangular shapes a quieter sensibility.

The Cranes are an expressionistic depiction with pop-art overtones of economic growth at full steam and this series does not fail to impress upon the viewer the power and awe of the last twenty years of high-end development around the world. One can also cull the gloomy side of development because those turbid sunsets are overly rich, satiated perhaps from the topsy-turvy energy of rushed economic growth.

The same cowboy rambunctiousness which rises from the painter’s lively personality and which idolizes the shapes of modern technology is given full play in her Formula One series. Here the ultimate accessory/necessity of modern life, the car, is depicted in its extreme, racing car form. In this series you can hear the engines revving at an extremely high pitch. Dangerously large black tires rise up like modern monsters against the ceruluem blue of the car itself. A BMW is represented with a few simple colors, ultra-marine, sky blue, some creamy white and a dash of red. A shivering pink Lamborghini and a solidly metallic silver McClaren charge off the canvas and into real space. In the simplicity of these colors resides much of Mina’s power as an artist.

What is the modern world without cars? Unthinkable. To turn these machines into modern gods – and to generate a discussion about our lifestyle, subliminally, is a necessary by-product of the viewer’s experience.

If New York is defined by one object of modernity, besides the high-rise skyscraper, it is Manhattan’s yellow cabs. The heroes of this series, are the city’s hard-working laborers of transportation. Mina draws these with her characteristic ease, and the cabs are defined as much by their own colors as by the dark towers of the cityscape into which these mythical beings of modernity disappear. Fluor red for the splashy brakelights, lemon, citron and cadmium yellow for the body of the car itself, black and white lines for the skyscrapers – these simple yet starkly powerful combinations form the bulk of her New York stories.

Formal and informal, loosely defined lines which clearly delineate the object of her – and ultimately our obsessions –, rising out of a tradition of expressionism and pop art, Mina Valyrakis sits atop a vast work of art which succeeds in stirring the viewer and engaging the eye. She pursues deeper philosophical questions about the world in which we live. Her works engage the viewer at two levels – the visceral, through color, and the subliminal, through the subject matter. A visit to her exhibition resonates long after the viewer has left the premises.

Nikos Papandreou
Athens, 2009