Meet Luca Valentini, a pop art virtuoso who is currently in Dubai to launch a brand new exhibition, ‘Turn on the Light’…
Synonymous with artistic skills that merge the worlds of fashion and art, Luca Valentini brilliantly managed to carve out a niche in the art world through bold representations of both industries.
Now on display at the Sconci Art Gallery in DIFC, the ‘Turn on the Light’ exhibition brings Luca to Dubai where he sits down with MOJEH to exclusively discuss his selection of artworks, his thoughts on the Middle East and the importance to address controversial topics in the industry…
You’re currently in Dubai for your ‘Turn on the Light’ exhibition. Can you tell us more about that…
The ‘Turn on the Light’ collection showcases 24 unique works, split into two series. The first series focuses on the reinterpretation of newspaper covers, movie posters and advertisements, while the second is inspired by my Italian origins, reinterpreted in a modern way, placing the theme of social acceptance at the centre of my work. The rationale for creating the first series emerged from wanting to offer a different point of view on what surrounds us, and towards that which we are used to seeing. Inspired by covers of newspapers, advertisements and movie posters, I sought, through puns, to change the meaning of images. The second series takes its cue from the tendency of humans to seek out social acceptance in today’s society, where I simplified and stylised images to bring them closer to the drawings found on ancient Roman vases.
Why did you feel that Dubai was the best location to present your latest exhibition?
I started thinking about a new series during my last visit to Dubai. The inspiration was born looking at the city from the window of my apartment and seeing how it transforms throughout the day. The atmosphere of the city changes completely after the sunset and the lights switch on. The title of the new series, ‘Turn on the Light’, is a metaphor for how by changing one’s perspective, the world can appear completely different.
What are your thoughts on the art scene here in the UAE? The Middle East?
The UAE and the Middle East have a very diverse mix of cultures. I think the Dubai art scene is fast catching up with the art scene in western cities such as London and New York. What I really appreciate is how pop art is re-evaluated and appreciated by the Middle Eastern community. The reproduction of materials and symbols of consumerism, seen in critical and ironic terms, are some of the best ways, in my point of view, to make us reflect on the direction our society is taking.
You’ve carved out a niche in the art industry. Where do you usually get your inspiration from?
I cannot consciously say what stimulates my inspiration, but I do know that sometimes just a moment of reflection turns into a very clear image of what I will go on to create as a painting. Inspiration can come from many forms, such as certain places, other artists, or anything that attracts my attention. I remember hours and hours being spent studying artists like Pablo Picasso or Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio. But certainly the artists of American pop art are those who have most influenced my work: the simplicity of the sign contrasted with the intensity of the concept of Keith Haring, the irreverence and the boldness of the work of Jean Michel Basquiat, the portraits and the way to represent the consumerist society of Andy Warhol. Most often my inspiration comes from reading a newspaper article or just walking down the street.
Your works are often controversial. Why do you think it’s important to address this?
I find the opportunity to offer different points of view interesting and the true essence of my work is through contrasts. With puns and images, it creates a contradiction that can in a certain way generate a controlled entropy. My art pieces are based exactly on this, on finding the right balance between attracting and disturbing. There is cultural importance from artistic gesture in order to develop the evolution of society. The culture of beauty and art is an element that could make the difference and partly alleviate social impoverishment. Through my work, my biggest challenge and mission is to build a foundation for social growth.
Your works also appeal to the fashion industry with references to Dolce & Gabbana (Sweat & Gabbana). What’s the story behind merging the two industries?
I believe that art and fashion are linked so strongly and poetically, it is not possible to determine where one subject starts and the other ends. I try to portray this connection through my artwork and like to use images relating to the world of fashion to express concepts that relate to the society in which we live. I find it interesting to link concepts typically found in the fashion world in order to create contradictions between situations far from the world of the catwalk, creating contrast and dissonance, which I find extremely interesting from an artistic standpoint.
How do you showcase your origins and traditions, but in a modern way?
I believe that art runs in the blood of every Italian. It’s in our DNA. Growing up in cities that are home to some of the most famous open-air museums, how can it not influence your awareness of beauty? From walking into the imperial forums to seeing the Colosseum, or perhaps just entering a small church, you find yourself observing works of some of the most influential artisans in history and this, of course, can only be stimulating. I have taken inspiration from the artistic origins of my heritage, drawing from Roman beliefs and studying lights in Caravaggio’s portraits, where I naturally metabolize and repurpose them into my own style.
You first started studying Environmental Engineering. When did you realise that you had a passion for art and wanted to pursue that?
I do not have a precise memory. I believe that each of us has a talent, a natural inclination to do a certain activity well. I think talent is something written in the DNA, it is in the soul of an individual. I remember always trying, through drawing, to express what I felt inside since I was a child. I always knew that an engineering career was not for me. It is too schematic and repetitive. Once I finished my studies, I wanted to follow my path and simply do what made me feel good about myself. I knew it would be a difficult road ahead, but since this journey began I have been rewarded for each of the sacrifices I have made each time I complete an artwork – I feel I have achieved the goal I had set myself.
The industry itself introduces you to a slew of constant challenges. How do you manage to break free from and deal with that?
The biggest challenge for me is to find a way to convey my feelings and ideas through the pieces I create, to ensure a connection is established between the work and the viewer, enabling the latter to draw inspiration for their own reflection. I have set many challenges, all against myself, in a bid to constantly develop my art so that each ensuing piece is always better than my previous works, and it is through these challenges that I grow as an artist.
What do you hope to take from your presence here in the region?
For me, I try to find inspiration from many of the places I visit. In my opinion, travelling is the best way to open your eyes and expand your horizons. Every journey has left something inside of me that comes out when I least expect it.
Luca Valentini’s ‘Turn on the Light’ exhibition is now open to the public until April 24, 2019, at Sconci Art Gallery, DIFC.
- Words by Meeran Mekkaoui