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Matteo Valerio

Matteo is an artist residing in Italy and working at the intersection of painting, textile and ceramics

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05/03/2024

Artist profile

Artwork

Matteo Valerio is an artist born in Tampa, US, and currently residing in the Veneto region of Italy, whose practice merges boundaries between painting, ceramics and textile. Through his multilayered, cross-disciplinary installations, Valerio celebrates the artistic potential of craft, while investigating the political, social and historical dimensions of his materials. His skills that rely on traditional techniques span knitting, painting and dying, to hand-spinning silk from venetian mulberries to make yarn. Matteo explains: “To me, manual processes are the most important present-day technologies, preserving history and memory.”


Growing up in the Alps in Italy, Valerio was exposed to artisanal from an early age. He notes: “As a child, I spent a lot of time drawing or building wooden objects. I have had a needle in my hand ever since I can remember.” Upon completing his bachelors in Fine Art at the Academy of Venice, Matteo moved to London to pursue a Master’s degree at Central Saint Martins, during which he was awarded a scholarship from the Italian Ministry of Culture. The opportunity allowed him to learn traditional indigo dye and cotton weaving techniques in Kaili city, China, from an isolated community called Miao, which left a lasting mark on his practice.


To undermine the distinction between craft and fine art, Valerio refrains from strictly labelling his practice as one or the other, and instead, finds ways of blurring the boundaries between them.  “I use ceramics as textile, and textile as painting - I like to experiment and not categorise my work. In my experience, in the realm of art, materials and processes have a hierarchy, and if I say it’s a patchwork, not a painting, people might perceive it as a ‘low form’ of art” notes Matteo. While the complex  processes involved in making Valerio’s pieces may not be visible at first, each layer, sign and stitch bear witness to long hours of labour, and of course, history. Works like ‘Swamping’, a textile piece made with traditional and chemical dyes, pay tribute to the history and geology of the places Valerio visited and drew  inspiration from -  be it Kaili or the Venetian laguna. “With this piece”, says Matteo, “I aimed to emphasise the invisible element of water involved in my processes, while also referencing Veneto’s past as a wetland, where water was considered as a sacred entity.”


Besides historical references, Valerio’s work is rich in personal symbolisms as well. His trademark is a figure with outreached arms up towards the sky, (stylised as the sculpture ‘Eating Silkworm’). This symbol, reminiscent of a tree, is inspired by his visit to the cemeteries of Copenhagen where “each tomb had a tree as an extension of the deceased”. Matteo notes: “This figure, that I often depict in a box, is my alter ego - always reaching higher, yet constrained by societal expectations of what art should be.” The intricate details that populate Valerio’s works - including delicate embroideries, rips, paint, and batik marks - create a chart of personal and collective histories of techniques and craft.

Valerio is now living and working in Marostica, a small town at the bottom of the Dolomites renowned for its ceramic tradition. His upcoming works will aim at “bringing manual approaches in contact with industrial processes, to interrogate how tradition and technology might live side by side.”

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Swamping

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Eating Silkworm

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