Frieze Zona Maco

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The lights and shadows of Nicoletta Ceccoli

Child’s eyes, baby-blue faces, porcelain complexions are immersed in surreal, dreamlike worlds with lunar landscapes. The innocence of adolescence fuses with dreams which waver between idyllic and disquieting, because they bring to mind visions of a submerged unconscious. We might thus introduce the works of Nicoletta Ceccoli, children’s book illustrator, who has fascinated Europe with her drawings. Born in 1973, Ceccoli graduated from the Urbino State Institute of Art in the animated cinematography section. Soon, however, she discovered a true passion for illustration, to which she dedicated herself body and soul, publishing over 20 works with the most important Italian publishers and many foreign ones. In 2001, Nicoletta Ceccoli won the Andersen-Baia Fairy Story Prize for best illustrator of the year, and the following year the Award of Excellence of Communication Art (USA) for her illustrations for Pinocchio (Mondadori). She’s going to talk about herself, and begins by giving a precise definition of her artistic philosophy. .
What is authentic art for you?
Any form of artistic expression which involves serious methodical reflection. This process is important for appreciating the result. The history of art is made up of occurrences and recurrences, of moments of rejection of figuration with concentration on more conceptual expressions, alternations of extreme experimentation and tradition which quote and borrow from one another. I'm interested in art in which I can recognise an original view of reality, whatever form it may take.
Do we learn from art or from the artist?
All the artists I love teach me even though I’ve never met them. They offer me emotions, and I carry them with me like all my meetings, journeys, all the things I’ve observed and experienced. The creative person is like a tree whose roots draw nourishment from experience and transform it slowly into new leaves.

“[…] Perfect craftsmanship is essential for every artist”. Walter Gropius wrote this in the Bauhaus manifesto. How true is it of the technological world?
When I use the computer to create, it requires just as much effort, “craftsmanship” and care as traditional brushes and pencils. The computer presents as many challenges as the classic techniques, they’re just different.
What does a woman who draws female characters think of women in the art world?
I love some 20th-century Surrealist artists like Rimedio Varo and Legno Fini. Unfortunately in the past women didn’t get the chance to make their voices heard; Gentileschi, Garzoni, Carriera are the very few who are remembered. The role of women in art was simply as the muse of male painters. Luckily it’s different today. When I draw, I think of my children as temperamental creatures, strong and fragile at the same time. Who no longer need to find salvation in the arms of Prince Charming. Indeed, my young adolescent girls are no longer children and not yet women. I use them to describe a delicate nostalgia. They express vanity, fragility, cruelty, with grace and beauty at the same time. I feel them to be my alter egos; like them, inside myself I don’t yet feel ready to grow up. My illustrations enjoy playing with contradictions. They’re eccentric, but also disquieting, dreamlike, they make you think. Like the dark side of a nursery rhyme, a dream of delightful things with a small area of shadow.