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Nr. 284; Etana, 1964

In the early 1950s Italo Valenti moved from Italy to the Canton Ticino (the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland). He soon met other artists based in the area, including Ben Nicholson, Jean Arp and Julius Bissier. This signalled Valenti’s growing interest in abstraction, with which came the use of the technique of collage (or, more precisely, papiers collées, as he only used glued paper). The artist began to experiment with it in late 1959, originally to make greeting and Christmas cards for his friends. Having seen the results, Ben Nicholson suggested to him that he should incorporate the technique in his artistic production. For the rest of his career collage became a parallel strand to painting in Valenti’s work.

Three of the collages on display at Kettle’s Yard (Nr. 284; Etana, Nr. 287; Giardino a mezzogiorno and Nr. 286; Pietra) are of the same size and were created almost in sequence, but, as Valenti’s numbering suggests, they were from a much larger range and not intended as a group. However, Jim Ede installed them frame-to-frame, above an altar-like table and with top-lighting, an arrangement which suggests their being a ‘triptych’. Valenti himself grew to like this notion, which was sanctioned by reproductions in later monographs.

All three works were made with torn sheets of black and white paper, a technique reminiscent of Jean Arp’s papiers dechirées. The titles suggest some of Valenti’s main interests at the time, namely literary and mythological subjects, the Mediterranean, the spiritual and nature. In particular, Etana refers to the Mesopotamian myth of the man who ascended to heaven on the back of an eagle. Just like the theme of flight, strong literary leanings recurred throughout Valenti’s career. During his Italian years he befriended poets and novelists such as Eugenio Montale and Salvatore Quasimodo, and one of his neighbours in Switzerland was the famous scholar of mythology Karl Kerény, who seems a likely source for some of Valenti’s references.

Etana, Giardino a mezzogiorno and Pietra were among Jim Ede’s first purchases of work by Valenti, following their exhibition at Dokumenta III in Kassel (1964). Ede particularly enjoyed the fine contrast of forms and the subtle interplay of textures, achieved through the careful modulation of the torn edges of the paper and by making full use of tonal variations.

For more information on Italo Valenti visit

Collage [IV 1]


Paper collage on hardboard (Pavatex)

1220 x 905 mm

About the artist

Valenti was born in Milan. He lived and worked in Italy until 1953, when he made his home in Switzerland. In 1963 he held a joint exhibition with Ben Nicholson, Mark Tobey, Jean Arp and Jules Bissier. He was introduced to Jim Ede by Ben Nicholson. Extensive information about the artist is available at