Surrealistic Pottery – Ceramic Art of Castelli

Surrealistic pottery, what is it,where is it? We went to Castelli because we had learned about a young ceramic artist who loves tradition yet creates surrealistic pottery. These seemed concepts a bit ‘distant’ from each other and so we decided to learn about the tradition and try to better understand what he meant by surrealistic pottery. Where does the work of the artisan stop and that of the artist begin? It is difficult to define a border, especially in the world of art ceramics, where the techniques of preparation of the clay, the sintering and painting can greatly affect the final work. So how can we understand surrealistic pottery?

Anyone lucky enough to arrive in Castelli, Abruzzo, in the mountainous heart of central Italy, can immediately perceive the meaning and spirit of tradition. A mountain town where for centuries people have spent long winters in isolation baking and painting the local clay. They were warmed with the same furnace in which they realized their unique and recognizable pottery.

The close-knit community is known by its communal achievements. Between 1615-17 the majolica community realized over 800 painted tiles each different and by individual craftsmen, to decorate the roof of the local church, San Donato. Later they proudly created a pottery school to pass on the knowledge from one generation to another.

The flip side of this coin is that the people of this area were suspicious and not receptive to the effects of the news. The war had caused the majority of an entire generation to migrate. Thus, creating in the same style that had made Castelli world-famous was no longer a viable strategy.

Then came the generation of Marco Carbone, who grew up with television and cartoons. This opened the door to an innovation within the community. Marco learned painting with his mother and his uncle but his spirit is joyful and he was immediately attracted to Dali, Magritte and the surrealist movement.

At the same time, however, he did not leave the mountain and did not emigrate in search of his fortune elsewhere. He could see the country waning and he started his own path to revive traditional elements in a new way and with a personal language – surrealistic pottery.

He knows the art and craft techniques and blends them into a personal style in which the weight of tradition is rendered “light” from strokes and unusual landscapes. The colors in the palette are traditional and also the shapes of the artifacts can be found in the history of castles, but the subjects are new. For example, read his interesting article on the importance of light blue in painting.

The scope of the drawings belongs more to the techniques of intaglio, the definition of the edges of the subject and the characters are accurate and precise. However, the scenes are not typically coming from Abruzzo and fantasy mixes with the most joyous surrealism to create surrealistic pottery.

He calls himself a “humble craftsman,” but we have seen that in his works we can define an artist who could mark an important step in the history of ceramics of Castelli and create a bridge between the past and the future – through surrealistic pottery.

Here is a selection of some of his works.