ex-directory is a new weekly newsletter for artists and the world’s music industry, curated by a group of friends and colleagues in cities across the globe.
Today, we meet Milan-based photographer, music producer and graphic designer Alex Valentina to find out how monthly escapes to the hills and lakes of his home region of Romagna are fuelling his creativity.
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You need only go as far as his website to see Alex Valentina’s self-confessed “crush on water textures” — the background of his extensive client list, which includes Universal, Apple, Ray-Ban and 4AD, is a shimmering pool that ripples and bounces as you navigate. The Milan-based artist has made a name for himself in recent years, both for artwork and type designs for musicians like Tkay Maidza and Oklou, and for his mind-bending fonts GoliaGolia and GabyGaby. His work has appeared regularly in publications like EyeOnDesign and It’s Nice That.
Departing Milan when he can for what he calls “a therapeutic week”, Alex heads south to his small hometown of Forlì, Romagna. There, he walks through serene hills and lakes, snapping photos to use as the basis for his otherworldly designs.
Speaking over email, he explains why nature has such a presence in his designs and how regularly going off-grid helps him return to work renewed.
EX: Why are you so drawn to nature in your work?
ALEX: “Nature has always been the source of my inspiration.
The colours, textures, proportions. I've always been fascinated by it. It started getting into my work without me totally realising it. Only, after some time, friends and graphic accounts began to point out how present these things were in my work. They are such a part of me that I don't even notice it.”
ALEX: “As soon as I have some free time, I go out into nature. I'm not talking about wild excursions, just lots of walks in the hills and the countryside. I really need to be in the middle of it. It cleans my lungs and my eyes.
I have a great admiration for nature. It’s super competent, flawless and always fair - and what comes out of that is always super genuine. I think it has to do with our origins. I feel it touches something so deeply.”
EX: Where do you go to get away from the city?
ALEX: “Mainly to my hometown of Forlì, a small town in Romagna. It’s surrounded by hills where I’ll often go for a run or walk. They are places I know well, so I already know the secret places to go.
Sometimes I go there for a while in the morning or maybe an hour in the evening. When nature becomes a vacation or a destination it works less for me. It's when it becomes part of your daily routine that it makes the most difference.”
EX: Do you think it helps the creative process to disconnect?
ALEX: “Totally. Although I think it has more to do with myself than with my creative processes. It's not so much about disconnection, it's more about re-establishing your connection to certain emotions. Everyone can find them in different ways. For me, this is what nature does. Nature make me feel things like amazement, peace, acceptance, forgiveness, remembering, desire and patience more clearly. It removes the numbness and the fog that sometimes doesn’t let you feel certain emotions.
It's something that helps me, and therefore any interaction between me and the world.”
EX: This month, ex-directory is all about going ‘off-grid’. Would you ever leave the city completely?
ALEX: “I think about it a lot lately. If I’m ever going to buy a little house, I’d prefer to have it up in the hills. Waking up in that air changes your approach to the day for sure. But I’m very torn about this idea.
Considering my personality, I’m always scared that too much isolation might be like an addiction for me and it might be counter-productive. I’m thinking that having a place where you can go for a couple of weeks every one or two months would help a lot. It is always a question of finding a fair balance between the time you spend with others and the time you just spend with yourself.”
ALEX: “I respect nature a lot because every day it reminds me of the A-B-C and gives me perspective. It helps you to call things by their name, and I’m not just talking about problems or personal things, but more like something that has to do with history and time. There is always this concept that we must respect nature or the environment as an act of charity, as if it depends on us when actually we are the ones who depend on it. We cannot survive without it, while it will continue easily survive with or without us.
This is one of my favourite thoughts: "The biggest challenge we face is shifting human consciousness. The planet doesn't need saving. We do." — Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”
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