Paolo Staccioli: the appearance of reality – by Ornella Casazza

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Vaso con figure, 2010, private collection
Vaso con figure, 2010, private collection
Paolo Staccioli, sculptor
Paolo Staccioli, sculptor

Paolo Staccioli has represented figures, in many of his paintings, that are very close to sculptures; this testifies to how his passion for sculpture has been the most authentic and seductive artistic passion throughout his life. This passion has accompanied him for a long time already, and it illuminates his many unique, prestigious and powerful works. His true obsession, throughout his by now thirty year career, is the horse, and these horses and horsemen embody the preferred theme of his works. He thus shares in the words of Salvatore Dalì, who wrote, in 1936, to his friend and patron, Edward James, “There aren’t paintings, there is only one painting that I continue to paint throughout my entire life on different canvases”. Staccioli’s graceful children ride, holding on to the necks of powerful bronze horses, green like Paolo Uccello’s horse painted in “terra vert” in the cathedral of Florence. The earth bends to his wished, and “with malleable grace, modeling a Tuscan measure on the tracks of modernity” (A. Paolucci, 2011), Staccioli gives form to his impulse for love, narrating with lightness and irony, the gestures of Eros. He is shown to us as an attractive winged child, never armed with a bow and arrows, who knows how to tame even the most exuberant horses, glowing in red glaze. Staccioli lets Eros, a happy child, play alone or with other divine children, modeled in the round, encircling the neck of a vase that becomes their toy, binging to mind, for example, the ancient vases of Canosa of Puglia.

Carro con guerrieri, 2010, private collection
Carro con guerrieri, 2010, private collection

With a sense of irony, he entrusts the surfaces of his vases with a role meant to demonstrate his ability in handling contour and color, which is then left to the kiln to transform into “landscapes” of flashing and blinding light. There, vortexes of knights, created by a single color that develops a chiaroscuro, whirl freely, even though they are fixed to a structure with wheels, like the toys of our childhood, exactly like the one his father was holding in a photo from 1917, portrayed together with his mother and sisters. His poetry sets its roots primarily in the distinction between two different worlds: the familiar and the fantastic. And, after the “celestial ride” suspended in a vacuum, he finds an extraordinary opportunity to reveal the passage of time as if it were suspended in a veiled distance. He thus offers to the public new stories inspired by memories, dreams, space, desire, time, silence and waiting. He has modeled immobile warriors, with a synthetic and almost improvised modeling, sensitive to the changing effects of the light and with the action and point of view predominately frontal. They are wearing head coverings that are characterized by wide brims, which brings to mind perhaps the iconic symbol of Abruzzo: the Warrior of Capestrano, one of the most mysterious artifacts that the past has delivered to us. Then, tirelessly, he has organized installations of hundreds of red prelates and he has built towers clad in alternating strips in two colors. He has clad good-natured warriors, armed with lances and shields, with the same stripes, as if they were architectural elements of the Romanesque and Gothic basilicas in Tuscany, Liguria and Sardinia. And he then brought them into the most prestigious museums.

By using his unlimited imagination, the themes, on which he has long meditated in these recent years and which have become a significant part of his repertoire, aren’t repetitive, instead they allow usto recognize Staccioli’s work. They give us the impression that he confronts the same theme of the horse, but, he continually experiments with new forms in luminous polychrome glazes. He decorates, compressing the space with small horses in very shallow relief and with warriors in refined armor, who are reduced to fragments, without arms or with their legs cut off at the knees, as if they were emerging from imaginary and ironically rusty tanks. Equally, his female figures appear to be fascinating warriors, even though they don’t have bows, arrows or quivers; their hair is tied behind their heads, they have an androgynous look, but they are charged with a mysterious appeal. They have put away their weapons, and like Diana, they protect our forests. The sphere then becomes a vase “animated at the stop by maniples of characters waiting mysteriously; there we find his primordial horses, his warriors like statuesteles”, (Cristina Acidini, 2011) and his travelers with suitcases, sitting, but ready far a journey through history or in the present. They are a varied populace and we do not know where they come from.

They are often in the company of harlequins, or Pulcinella, or other dreamers. They are almost enigmatic idols, immersed in a silence that is not a state of incommunicability. In fact, they don’t express any existential anxiety, and they become far the artist an emblematic symbol of communication within a human nucleus, which has stopped in order to observe, to see and to be seen. In several works, as Cristina Acidini has affirmed in the occasion of the recent e:xhibition at the Home Museum in Florence, Staccioli has arrived at an innovative majesty, touching on the goals of sculpture. The refined bronze patinas allude to this. Staccioli’ s arte is mature, and thanks to the encounter between his inexhaustible inventiveness and his masterful technique, he continues to evolve with results that represent the best in Florentine and Tuscan art of today.

Ornella Casazza
Art historian at Superintendence for Artistic and Historical Heritage of Florence

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