Ten Minutes With Emilio Villalba, One Of Three Artists Part Of The Valentino On Canvas Campaign

Pierpaolo Piccioli is as driven by art as much as he is fashion. Cast your minds back to last July, and the Valentino creative director teamed up with 17 contemporary artists on 22 pieces that featured in the brand’s couture AW21 collection. At the time, he spoke of exchanging ideas with each involved with the aim of evoking dynamic and diverse creative conversations. For Valentino’s latest foray into the art world, Piccioli defines a new method of “delivering messages through the brushstrokes of different personas through which the viewer is enriched by feelings and beliefs”. Introducing Valentino On Canvas, a new initiative which sees the brand give three renowned painters the complete creative freedom to create a work that reinterprets the Valentino Garavani One Stud bag from the brand’s Rendez-Vous collection, which will serve as a new campaign for Valentino.

Selected for the occasion were Columbian talent Giorgio Celin, Oh de Laval who is of half Polish, half Thai descent, and San Francisco-based Emilio Villalba. The latter uses his practice to address the many anxieties of everyday life, often working with repetition and incorporating subjects he interacts with on the daily. Here, we sit down with the talent to discuss his piece for the campaign.

How did you get involved with the campaign?

“I had the pleasure of working with Valentino in 2019, when I was asked by the Valentino Team to paint on 10 handbags that were eventually on display during Art Basel week in Miami of that year. Since then we have been in touch and it led to this current collaboration.”

What attracted you to work with the brand?

“From first contact with them, I was attracted to the personalities and people I interacted with, Valentino Family. They have been beyond great at encouraging creativity and pushing boundaries.  Initially with the collaborations I felt the need to be safe with my designs, and they were the first to tell me to be myself and push the work.  I think what’s really neat and unique about them is that they are eager to see something new and fresh, and love to take risks and see others take risks.  The relationships I have with the Valentino family inspired me to make the work for both projects.”

How did you go about transforming the Valentino Garavani One Stud bag into a piece?

“I had to think of how the bag could fit into my current direction in my work.  I have been making paintings that resemble collages which mostly depict images of people and things that surround my personal life, such as my loved one, dog, and things found inside and outside of my apartment.  I first decided to use the green bag, so I looked for objects that were a bit warmer in colour to support the bag.  Initially it was going to be very minimal with a few flowers, but the design kept growing.  In the end, the piece still feels minimal and echoes my original concept.”

Where did your inspiration stem from for the piece?

“The inspiration for the objects and the self-portraits stemmed from asking “How do I fit into the Valentino world?” Self-portraits can say a lot about the painter and what they were thinking or feeling at the time of execution. In my case you could say I was a bit shy and perhaps not completely confident that I belonged in the painting, for example one of the portraits is cut in half or hiding and the other portrait is a reflection from a hand-mirror. I could have included other people into the painting but it didn’t feel appropriate at the time.  The other objects were chosen and painted in a way to represent myself and my vision of the brand: bold, elegant, and fun, with a touch of romance.  The dog belongs to my partner Michelle and the cat belongs to Maxime, two little pet angels which I think resolved the painting for me.”

Repetition is a key pillar to your practice, how did this process evolve in your work?

“I have always struggled with approaching anything new in life, whether it was a new hobby or sport.  I learned much later in life that practice makes perfect, and so I do that on a daily basis with my paintings.  I paint objects repeatedly either on the same composition or over a few pieces until I have become familiar enough with the objects that I feel that they are integrated into my vocabulary.  As a viewer, repetition in music and in art has always had an impact on me, it gave a sense of importance with a touch of mystery. I’ve always come back to visit work that includes much repetition, especially in music.”

How has the experience been working with Valentino?

“Phenomenal.  I feel so lucky and honoured to have been asked to work with Valentino. I have never worked on a “commission” like this before where I can actually look at the work in retrospect and think of the artistic side first, rather than thinking of it like a homework assignment. Again, I have to thank Maison Valentino for believing in me, and allowing me to be myself. I am forever grateful to them and will never forget these relationships and projects, I’m looking forward to the next one.”

Photography courtesy of Maison Valentino / Ph. Ryan David Holmes. 

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