Nicoletta Ceccoli‘s fantastical world is a whimsical menagerie: airy yet distanced, wearily peering at the viewer from behind a funhouse mirror. It’s nostalgic sadness is particularly striking, and is written int0 the various characters Ceccoli brings to life. In the same way Pinocchio wished to be a real boy, these dainty creations are inherently out of place, bridging that sense of longing with flashes of pure child’s joy. Ceccoli’s artwork gives us access into her deepest inner monologue, simultaneously contradicting our expectations and daring us to respond.
Ceccoli is from the Republic of San Marino, where she based, and studied animation before launching a solo art career. The animator’s touch definitely colors every one of her pieces; the secret lives of her doll-like cast, defined by implied storylines and invisible connectors. Some of her paintings even seem to be set in bedrooms, each wall telling its own twisted toy-like story. It’s this emptiness that urges us to fill in the blanks with narrative. Past the aesthetics of it all lies something to grab onto: reflections of ourselves in the artist’s pastel dreamland.
There’s a pair of paintings in Ceccoli’s portfolio that stood out to me right away: along with their instant charm, they define the qualities I mentioned above in a single cupful of stop-motion fairytale. Dangerous Liasons features a princess, the petite and blonde nymph Ceccoli brings back again and again, with a faded burgundy gown spilling at her feet. At the place where the gown meets the ground, it morphs into flesh tentacles, and just like that, the princess is part Kraken. The startled prince disappearing in its clutches only magnifies our princess’ serene expression. The other piece, Love Will Tear Us Apart, also with blonde royalty, has a similar effect: the lady in question is hoisting her skirt up to reveal a baby dragon. Again, there’s a prince recoiling in fear in the face of serenity—naturally, we’re on her side.
Another one of my favorites (Cuddle) has a girl hugging a fiery salamander to her chest; free of heavy metaphorical value, it feels simple and warm while showcasing Ceccoli’s emotional investment in her imagery. That bridge between the simple and surreal is why I found myself able to relate to her work despite being a first time viewer: something about it nudges the cells that house whatever tidbits of true joy are left in the human experience.
Ceccoli’s work falls right into the animated category of cute meets bizarre, and hits on the emotional aspect just as well as it does the technical—this is an artist to watch.