Paolo Ceribelli

  • Rainbow Globe-70x 100cm-2020
  • World flags-90 x 120 cm-2020
  • bd Target_90 x 90 cm_Plastic soldiers on canvas_2019
  • bd Rainbow Globe_70x100cm_Plastic soldiers on canvas
  • Tutto-torna, 100x100cm, painted plastic toy soldiers under plexiglass box
  • White embroidery, painted plastic toy soldiers under plexiglass box,100x100cm

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Paolo Ceribelli was born on July 8, 1978. It might not be an exaggeration if I affirm that Ceribelli is obsessed with the usage of toy soldiers in his paintings and objects. When an artist employs an object in such a recurrent manner, one will necessarily ask himself questions about the nature of this object. What are toy soldiers reminiscent of? First of all, as the first part of the name suggests it, it’s a toy, a children’s toy, and even more precisely, in 99 percent of the cases, male children’s, boys’ toy. Secondly, it has to do with war; this in itself is already an interesting matter of reflection: how come war –the summit and most demolishing manifestation of political conflicts –is present in a children’s toy? How come we – adults, parents –offer war symbols to children? How come that on his turn, the child feels attracted to play with this symbol of destruction, already at such a young age? An ancient philosopher, Heraclitus, believed that war is the father of all and king of all (things)and he might not have been far from truth we might presume. If you agree with the above points, then you might also agree that it is intriguing that the artworks of Ceribelli, abundant of toy soldiers, transmit clearly and deeply a convicted pacifism; even though he operates with a par excellencewar sign (the soldier) coupled often with politics-related subjects (flags, maps, etc.) he is obviously not paying tribute to war or any, even philosophical aspects of it. And however using the same toy soldiers as children do, he is definitely employing them in a non-childish and non-unconscious way by accumulating them into elaborate compositions questioning political, economical and cultural signs and systems of power and dominance. As pleasant or funny as the majority of his pieces might appear visually, they are also at least as critical and ironic in their meaning.
And indeed, it is the various paradoxes that make Ceribelli’swork attractive for most of us; the paradox of the child’s toy on the one hand and the grown-ups’ war on the other; the paradox between the chaos that the notion of war implies opposed to the compositional order and pureness of Ceribelli’scanvases; and finally the paradox of the critical edge and irony implicit of Ceribelli’ssubjects, in opposition with the harmony and pleasance of their aesthetics. Let’s have a word on this last one as well, as artworks are judged not only on ‘what they say’, but also and up foremost on ‘how’ they say it. At the same time let’s also try to put Ceribelli’swork in the context of the global art scene/ art history. Applying a real three-dimensional object (the toy soldier) on a canvas is undoubtedly reminiscent of twentieth century modern art. Marcel Duchamp was the first one to erect everyday objects into artworks, but his Readymadesare single objects in themselves that have nothing to do with painting. However, Ceribelliin some degree pays tribute to Duchamp and his Readymade, as he is using a ready-made object as the departure point of all of his artworks and the subjects he depicts with are also ‘ready-made’, like flags, maps, logos and other commonplaces.
Another historical link might be Kurt Schwitters who in the early 1920th, in the so-called Merz Bilder,added all kinds of found objects and materials to his collages, but mostly – as other Cubist, Surrealist and Dada artists of that time –two-dimensional objects such as newspapers, wallpapers, etc. By mentioning Schwitters we refer of course also to the fact that the Dada movement is considered by many as an artistic reaction to the First World War. We have to advance in time to proto-Pop artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns in the late 1950th to see the usage of three-dimensional objects, even large ones in their cases, applied onto the surface of the paintings. From then on this method become profuse in diverse contemporary art tendencies such as, to cite maybe the most famous one, Nouveau Réalism(with Arman, Daniel Spoerri, etc.) In opposition to all the previously mentioned artists, Ceribelli’sway of using and applying objects into the canvas is noticeably different. First of all, Schwitters, Rauschenberg, Speorri, etc. use diverse objects (underlining hence their banality and causality), whereas Ceribellisticks to one certain object that he repeats uncountably within one painting and then again from painting to painting. Secondly, the previously mentioned artists all favourcausal, sometimes even messy compositions, whereas Ceribelli’scompositions and surfaces are always clean and equilibrated.
Interestingly, due to the systematic (at times linear, in others concentric) placement of the toy soldiers and the light and shadow-effects that change their appearance according to the viewers’ position, Ceribelli’spaintings also emit a slight illusionist optical effect which relates them even with the so called Op-art movement (Jesús Rafael Soto, Victor Vasarely, Bridget Riley, etc.) And to finish with the references, the compositional equilibrium of Ceribelli’s canvases, coupled with the usage of complementary and bright coloursmight remind us painters like Frank Stella and Kenneth Noland from their Hard-edge period. I shall state and remind that all the previous allegations were made on a pure aesthetic basis. The toy soldiers and the compositions Ceribelliis drawing with them are so directly political, that this makes him also without a doubt belong to the contemporary art scene of the last 20-25 years. Only since the mid-late eighties can we distinguish a tendency of artists assuming political subjects directly and systematically in their works. I think it is good that Ceribelli’swork has so many links with modern and contemporary art, but the best thing is that –due to the toy soldiers –the very first link is always the child, the childishness. This is why, independently from the seriousness factor of the subjects, and the implied criticism, you might always watch Ceribelli’spaintings with a smile on your face.
Tamas Jovanovics