Jozef Batko finds a sense of freedom in painting.
For Jozef Batko, there’s nothing more symbolic of freedom than self-expression — especially when it comes to art. And it’s for good reason. Growing up in Czechoslovakia, then under Communist rule, freedom of expression wasn’t a given.
“I remember being a child in art class,” he says. “I wanted to paint things I liked. I wanted to paint my friends — anything. They would tell me ‘No. You’re going to paint this.’ You weren’t allowed to paint anything outside the guidelines.”
By the time he was in his early teenage years, he says he couldn’t take it anymore. He began painting at home, on his own terms.
“Art should be something expressive,” he says. “It doesn’t make sense to create art any other way.”
He began painting landscapes and still lifes, imitating his favorite masters to develop his style. In 1998, his career as a major league soccer official brought him and his wife to the United States, where he continued to develop his style.
He says he began to experiment with abstract art in the pursuit of a better way to convey his emotions.
“I started experimenting with drip painting, and I really enjoyed it,” he says. “Sometimes, the only way I can get a feeling out is to put it on canvas. To me, a landscape will always be a landscape. But with abstract art, it’s more open to interpretation. It can take on different meanings depending on when you look at it and who’s looking at it.”
Stylistically, Batkos says his biggest influence is Jackson Pollock, and the comparison is evident. He doesn’t use a brush. Instead, he squeezes paint directly from the tube onto the canvas, controlling the flow with the amount of pressure he applies. He varies between linework and bursts of mist, creating minimalistic works — mostly in black and white, but he says incorporating a touch of color is what brings the work together.
“I like the simplicity of it,” he says. “I start with a simple line, and I just let it progress on its own. The clean lines feel very decisive to me, and the color adds depth.”
His work, which is on display at Chic Art & Accents, is as much about creation as it is about reflection. Batko says it’s impossible to keep his mindset out of his work, even if it’s subconscious. When he’s in good spirits, he finds his paintings are typically smaller, with more white space.
On days when he has a lot on his mind, he tends to work big, creating more dense pieces. But it’s usually not until a few days later that the correlation becomes clear to him.
“I’ll look back at something and realize what was going on in my life at the time,” he says. “And it will make total sense, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.”
Above all though, he enjoys the process, and he cherishes the opportunity to create.
“Art is important to me,” he says. “The freedom to express yourself is one of the most important things in life. Art is freedom.”
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