Although more commonly associated with idyllic landscapes and other renderings of natural life, the delicate, fluid quality of watercolor painting is also well-suited for portraying human eroticism, a notion that Russian painter Valéria Ko is certainly aware of and fully embraces in her work.
Taking advantage of the lower-degree of hyper-realistic precision that the medium offers, her paintings feel more mysterious than didactic, more allegorical than forthright. Her semi-nude characters are often placed in indecipherable spaces or voids, posing seductively for an unknown presence or perhaps just to themselves. Rarely do they break the fourth wall and engage with the viewer. On the few occasions in which they do, their faces reveal a sense of hostility as if acknowledging the viewer as an invasive presence to their privacy.
Ko's mastery of watercolor stems from long-term engagement with the medium, having painted extensively with it since she was a 9-year-old pupil at lyceum. Despite her proficiency, she is relatively new to painting nudes. "I started drawing erotic figures just three years ago. Previously I had studied at Surikov Academy, a traditional Russian art school with a very academic way of teaching," Ko tells Creators. "We mostly drew landscapes, still lifes, and models."
Not satisfied with a somewhat more limited range of subjects to paint, Ko broke out of her school's norms and began painting erotic works. "I think I chose this somewhat more provocative theme because I got bored of drawing landscapes and these traditional genres throughout my entire educational period. Perhaps it's a protest of sorts," she adds jokingly.
Her decision to focus almost exclusively on women is ultimately a simple, almost instinctual one. "I find the female body more inspiring and attractive than that of males, overall. The airy colors and lightness of watercolors allows me to draw the female body in a more sensual and erotic fashion," she explains. "However, my works are not just about the women themselves, but about figures within a space."
You can see a full archive of Valéria Ko's watercolor works on her Instagram.