Lightness, grace, irony. These three fixed stars allow us to chart our course through the work of Paolo Staccioli. Lightness, first of all, because matter is heavy, and the techniques are heavy and complicated. It would take very little to be dragged down towards the irremediable dullness of a conceited, complacent profession. Staccioli understands this, even if nobody has ever told him. He knows it instinctively, and plays as if he is floating in mid-air, avoiding rhetoric and aestheticism, quickly flying away like a shrewd bird from the traps of name-dropping and vain virtuosities. Then grace, which is a flexible, transparent virtue. It is not learnt at school, or in the workshop. God grants it to those who He chooses. For an artist, grace is the ability to use the language of his time (for Staccioli, the language of the century is that of Arturo Martini, Giacometti, Marino, Fantoni etc.) in a way that is individual, recognisable, unmistakable, and at the same time, pleasant, persuasive, and stimulating. Looking at one of Staccioli’s ceramic works, caressing its iridescent surface, considering its weight, its shape, its proportions, listening to its song as the fingernail runs over its shiny engobe, we realize that the sight and the feel of it warm our heart, and our eyes are filled with curiosity and pleasure; this is the recognition of grace. Grace is something indefinable which others call (but the formula is conventional and a little chilling) the recognition of the authentic individuality of the artist. I prefer to call this grace, and I want to testify that Staccioli’s ceramics posses it. Lastly, irony, the ability to play, in tender amazement, in front of the sirens of modernity and the memories of the past. Is it possible to play with the Mars of Tody, and the Haranguer? Or with the Orientalising Style or the Liberty Stile? Or with the Towers of San Gimignano and the obelisk of Axum? With Giò Ponti and Picasso? Of course it is possible, indeed, we must. Because irony, a smile, and disenchantment are highly effective antidotes against rhetoric and mannerism. So, to recapitulate, lightness, grace and irony. Use these three keys of interpretation when you look at ceramic works by Paolo Staccioli, and you will realize that there are no better ways to recognise authentic quality when you meet it.
Soprintendente per il Polo Museale Fiorentino
(From the catalogue of the exhibition Paolo Staccioli’s joyful ceramic works, Florence, Pitti Palace
Museo degli Argenti e delle Porcellane, 29 October 2005 – 25 June 2006)