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In our contemporary times, the distinction between abstraction and figuration is often misleading. Valerio Nicolai focuses on the complex and abstractive existence of our inner self using a referential and figurative vocabulary to speak about the depths of his psychological essence.

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Born in 1988 in Gorizia, Valerio Nicolai attended the Fine Arts Academy in Venice. During the time of his uprising within the contemporary art world, Nicolai was able to show his research in some of the most vivid scenes of the Italian territory, bringing his works in Rome, Milan and Turin. Currently living and working in Milan, the artist has been researching a variety of interesting aspects that occur when diving into the world of existential conceptualism and visual intimacy, focusing his attention on the expansive narrative essence of the different media that are used in his creative process.


Valerio Nicolai, Toilette, 2019. Oil and acrylic on canvas.


Valerio Nicolai, Tramonto Dei Fornai, 2019. Oil and acrylic on canvas.


The intrigue that is felt when glancing at one of Nicolai’s works, is a result of the viewer’s interpretation of what the artist describes as “rebus of images”; a combination of a variety of intimate visual references, which are there for the observer to be inquired and unfolded. A process that allows the artist’s innermost psychological patterns to uprise and unveil themselves to the viewer in all of their fundamental truth, using a cryptic vocabulary to express themselves to the outside world, while escaping from the deceptive reality they are normally subjected to. Nicolai himself, when describing his creative procedure, defines his visual language as if: 

[…] sometimes it is cryptic, because it starts from existential concepts, sometimes I use a figure that symbolically indicates an intimate thought. This makes my world, when it is brought back to reality, sometimes deceptive, misleading, but as much as I try to hide a reality, the result turns out to be sincere

Besides all of the procedural aspects of Valerio Nicolai’s works, it is important to draw the attention towards the psychological and therapeutical function that these have in the artist’s everyday life. Having started his research using art as a way to overtake the complexity of youth, Nicolai still nowadays refers to his artistic practice as a form of psychoanalysis; a chance that the artist has, to speak about the relations that intertwine between the work itself, the outside world and the painter’s role of intermediary, giving great importance during his research, to the existential problem in regards of what self is and how it should act during its unravelling. As Nicolai explains, this particular approach, influences greatly the complexity of the decisions that have to be made when researching our own self, and allows the artist to understand the false appearance that occurs when one “exits the closet”, enabling him to escape any form of falsehood and to express a certain standard of truth. 

The fact that this narrative stage finds fertile ground in the world of expression, is extremely fascinating, and therefor attractive both for the painter to use as an expressive channel, and for the observer to enter the path towards a higher state of consciousness.


Valerio Nicolai, Tuffo, 2019. Oil and acrylic on canvas.


Valerio Nicolai, Amarena #4, 2019. Oil and acrylic on canvas.


Cover image: Valerio Nicolai, Installation view of “Amarena” (2019) at Clima Gallery, Milan.

Written by Mario Rodolfo Silva

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