He’s a master artisan of marquetry. Sharp and sometimes melancholic, he’s able to tell a story through his wooden paintings. He’s Pino Valenti, a Sicilian artist that turns wood into a masterpiece. From being a carpenter to becoming a painter and a storyteller. A curious passion for Pinocchio, a career that came about from five dusty years in a workshop. Take a seat and enjoy the new interview by Sicilian Secrets.
The luck to have had a father who, since he didn’t have the possibility to make me study, convinced me to learn a craft, so I became a carpenter. And at that time, I had no idea about all of this was useful. This job was part of my life for five dusty years, with chisels, planes and triangles.
Q: Pino Valenti, from being a student to becoming a carpenter and an artist. How did your job evolve?
A: After middle school my father didn’t have enough money to make me study of out of our town, Collesano(Palermo). So, he convinced me to learn a craft. Since I liked wood, from when I was 13 to 18 years old, I worked at a carpenter’s workshop. In that period, I learnt how to make everything, then when I was 18, I had the chance to move to Cefalù and attend the local Art School. One of the subjects was the ancient inlay decoration, wood didn’t want to abandon me.
I imagined creating very peculiar works, so before I completed my course, I made two paintings, one for the school and one for me. I thought to become a professor of art, but it was tough to find a job. At that point, I took the best decision ever, I opened a carpenter’s shop to produce furniture and paintings.
Q: How does the inspiration to create your very peculiar paintings come about?
A: Ideas and sketches on a piece of paper. I remember a very beautiful work I made in summer. In the afternoon there was a classic old American movie on TV, there were some musicians with their instruments and this image was stuck in my mind. I turned off TV, went to the beach and during the journey I thought that I could turn that image into a painting. So, I did it. Nowadays, sometimes, even internet can suggest me the right inspiration with some nice photos, but pen and block notes are what I use to draw and create.
Q: Do you remember any specific creative moment related to one of the subjects of your works?
A: The painting with Pandora’s box called Pandora Dream, was born in an incredible way. I drew a man who was smiling, just a couple of lines, then I added the hat. I thought that since the world is already full of negativity, from that box he had to release only beautiful and positive things such as Beauty, Astonishment, Emotions, Desires, Thoughts.
Q: If we look at your collection, one of the most common subjects is Pinocchio. What’s the meaning of this character in the works of Pino Valenti?
A: First of all, I think that children are the only ones who never lie. I cannot be separated from my paintings with Pinocchio, I keep them for me. Everything started in the ‘90s when the first Pinocchio by Pino Valenti was born. He was a puppet who had his cut strings in the hands. Behind there were Pulcinella and another puppet dressed like a knight that were trying to break their strings.
Pinocchio was free but worried, because freedom meant to autonomously decide about his destiny. I put this work on sale with a very high price and was sure nobody would have ever bought it, on the contrary an American couple took it, they paid me and brought it to California. I regret it, since that moment my Pinocchios are not on sale.
Q: For an artist like you, what does it mean to be Sicilian and how can we see it in your work?
A: Regarding Sicily, I will talk about one of my works. I made it in 2001 when the mayor of Collesano told me he needed to furnish one of the rooms of the city hall. He asked me to think about how to decorate the table in order to make that space a workplace. I suggest him create a drawing that included some real characters from each professional category killed by mafia. Falcone and Borsellino, Pio La Torre, Peppino Impastato, Giuseppe Fava, etc. My message was to make people understand, above all those who badly judge Sicily, that even the victims were often Sicilian.
Q: During your long career, has it ever happened that some clients asked you to make something strange?
A: Sometimes it happens that some people bring personal or family photos. Honestly, I don’t like to work in this way, I always try to say no because I want to be free. Every work independently comes about.