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Marc Piano, under the Jurassic sun, exactly

"..Marc Piano has this quiet strength to transform a pitcher in an animal from Jurassic within few magic detours in the hot seat of his potter's wheel. Sorcerer in his spare time, he can escape from his status of potter to be in the light and shadows of his studio an artist rather singular. He exceeds , transcends himself. He has the energy to go beyond the language of the clay in transmuting tracks ties. The bestiary he creates expands his range of options, expanding his expertise, populates his nights of adventures and dreams planet. The man is lunar. He writes stories with pieces of clay. There is in him a child who makes his fears to live better life.

His menagerie consisting of Spinisaurus, grazing Anatotitans or Torosaurus are his pets born from a senseless generation called spontaneous . He makes his circus, his film. Like a director, he tames them, seek to understand, educate them. He loves his monsters and he pampers them with the same zeal than a lonely annuitant caressing with perverse love her groomed dog on the French Riviera. The open mouths of his creatures look like indigenous Oceanian puzzles .

 About his prehistoric creations anyone dunce could quickly make them a "crime of dirty faces." Syndrome of terror. Dogs guard. Behind the Scenes is quite different. With a better look, we find that these dinosaurs of the Pre-vallaurienne era, with carnivorous and frightening jaw , have somewhere in someone's eyes a bit of humanity. By metaphor, we can say that these shelled animals with glowing colours can represent the saga of the human race caught in the tumult and the whirlwind of its disasters and hopes.

Marc Piano, if desire takes him by the tail, Picasso is not far, has a profile "à la Prévert" to convert himself as an illustrator of children's storytelling. The inventory of his playful universe lends itself perfectly. His workshop is a great orderly hut where dream pays reality with monkey money. He has talent to cross eras in Jules Verne's way, beardless. From Jurassic to Apple Computer, he weaves worlds with his clay to our great joy. A real lucky charm. "


Text from Hector Nabucco 



What is marvellous is always beautiful, in fact, only the marvellous is beautiful  


Whether presenting Surrealism in its fantastic or its childlike phase, André Breton could well play the role of Marc Piano’s mentor if the latter hadn’t already burst asunder all the barriers attempting to enclose him in some sort of artistic lineage. Piano’s version of the supernatural had crossed the limits of normality well before the mood of the moment turned it into a fashionable phenomenon; and his bestiary is the very incarnation of the timeless quality of chimera. With a sometimes disturbing, sometimes mischievous, imagination evident from the outset in the titles of his works, or with fantastic, even weird expressionism, portrayals and representations worthy of a Gainsbourg-type hallucinatory “trip” in the land of the Papuans and their totems, with native magicians and their blowpipes in sacrificial rites to the cult of their ancestors, “this man of earth”, impervious to the frenzy of the contemporary world, has worked quietly and lovingly to bring concrete form to all these creatures knocking at the door of his dreams. Cannois by birth and Vallaurian by adoption, Marc Piano presents his exhibition The Privilege of Invention in Cannes in echo to the Contemporary creation and ceramics International Biennale in the “city of clay”, the home of the great masters of this art. From the archaic to the visionary, mastodon to bacterium, phantasmagoria to irony, childhood obsessions to adventure in Maori territory, here is an invitation to travel, to come aboard the drunken boat1 and experience an odyssey under the spell of some Haka2 ritual or even a strange Prévert-style drama: “Bizarre, I said, bizarre – how strange it is!”  


Bernard Brochand

Member of Parliament and Mayor of Cannes  



The Privilege of Invention 


To hell with miserliness! A fortunate occasion arising from our time shared with the 21st International Biennale of Contemporary Ceramics in Vallauris is behind the spontaneous decision to present a one-man show of the extraordinary works of visual artist and Vallauris-born ceramist, Marc Piano, in Cannes. The town of Vallauris, his home since childhood and a place where his creative talent is visibly appreciated, is, of course, a favourite place in Provence for the art practised here in the past with a certain rustic simplicity leading to a much sought-after production based on glazed terracotta. This age-old traditional art of cooking pots and other culinary ware has resisted time within these walls (walls talk!) and is still vibrantly alive. The ancestral technique developed not only because of the high quality local clay extracted from the hills on the edge of Vallauris and the valleys above Sophia-Antiopolis, but also thanks to the expertise handed down by wise and loyal craftsmen. The spirit of alchemy so predominant in their world was rendered even nobler by the unquestionable supremacy of wood firing techniques. The art of fire – the alchemist’s art – frees the thirsty clay by magic, so that it can absorb the smooth and creamy glazes like a second skin to give vitreous glosses in lively, natural colours. 

The late 19th century heralded a period of innovation when the application of tried and tested traditional methods was put aside somewhat by the Massier family – mainly Clémént, Delphine and Jérôme – in favour of sumptuous new creativity and intense production. In their time, these three potters experimented, innovated and made such eclectic choices that they transformed the spirit of everyday pottery into a totally new concept, whereby the form should intrinsically convey the notion of an art object. Here was the basis of a totally new set of aesthetics for pottery, a moment of saving grace, a gesture towards the future, resulting in an active contribution to the development of art nouveau. This was a highly sensitive period teeming with ideas adopted by the artistic avant-garde to be used in their new forms of expression, and a whole new spirit emerged that was particularly liberating for ceramics; it helped to promote it to the rank of a true art form and, ultimately, bring it to autonomous status.  

Unfortunately, between the two wars, the centuries-old tradition established in Vallauris suffered a decline, leading to a real recession in what was the town’s main activity. The series of ensuing crises caused the closure of numerous sites, and on top of that, new, factory-made materials were being discovered – metal alloys or petroleum derivatives that would eventually replace, or at the very least endanger, the production of glazed ceramic cooking pots. These new metal and plastic materials, the fruit of industrial research, rapidly took over on the stage of modernity; their existence lay at the heart of a deliberate choice in the process of being made by the emergent consumer society, constantly seeking novelty and innovation. 

Towards the end of the thirties, the town of Vallauris, apparently emptied of its population of working craftsmen, suddenly began to re-emerge from the base upwards, thanks to a new generation of creative, up-to-the-minute artists avid for freedom and now willing to live and work within its precinct. In the silent heart of this old town, they slowly began to discover the studios and workshops fallen into disuse; but things really happened when Suzanne and Georges Ramié arrived on the scene, and founded the Madoura Pottery, thus giving the necessary impulse for the town’s ceramic activity to spring properly back to life. This was confirmed by the Ramiés’ meeting with Picasso. As early as 1946, he was one of those working in the studio, helping to make the prototypes of the prodigious output that would finally put paid to the town’s state of distress and abandonment. Like cries thrown out into the air, whorls of smoke rose again from the wood-fired ovens up into the azure blue sky, the expression of the flames of passion buried deep in the firings, that same fire that would ultimately reveal the miracle of artistic creation, the beauty of objects wrung from the fire’s grasp.

Marc Piano’s works have been conceived in exactly this spirit since the end of the 20th century. They are the result of an itinerary we can now look back on, where the underlying aim, research through experimentation, was somewhat compromised for fifteen years. This allowed him to constitute a whole range of ceramic pots; presenting them here has meant making a deliberate selection, often by dipping into the potter’s personal collection. The resulting one-man show retraces his deliberate experiments, and sets creations aside from the different phases of his activity that show all the more vividly the self-taught artist’s strength of character and imagination. In spite of the exemplary basis this latest analytical presentation displays, Marc Piano does not wish viewers to dwell on his past, and remains discreet in his personal life about the vital stage of more than twenty years of work before the period now being revealed. 

The period he is unwilling to reveal concerns his first trade of a potter at the wheel, an activity he regards as lucrative but nothing more. He says he exercised this trade not just in order to survive, but also in order to spend time in the heart of New Caledonia and Australia. This is all to his merit, since this is precisely when and where he acquired his innate sense of balance, his instinctive flair for placing objects in space. The art Marc Piano creates is sculptural and ceramic techniques will be his major preoccupation for the rest of his life. But in Vallauris, long after the rich vein of the great names of ceramics flourished there, his language has grown more refined, his art more clearly defined, we might say. By the end of the forties, Picasso and his numerous guests from the art world were already turning the Riviera town into a world centre by their creative art, their talent and the special depth they showed as human beings. Marc Piano struggled to acquire this prevalent spirit that marked a whole generation of artists and finally did so by the distance he set up through his research, which carried him over into a universe of his own making, unlike any other except his own life. 

With determination and willpower, he set about ridding himself of all inhibitions regarding the extravagant fantasies of the moment, whilst simultaneously producing a bestiary of zoomorphic forms amongst his surrealist ones. The strange beasts were the product of impressions and memories from his numerous trips abroad, especially amongst the Kanak people, and the many luscious, exotic plants he had come across during his long treks; images lodged in his memory from that period now prodded his imagination, and with them he was able to explore ideas that resulted in forms where expressivity and feeling blend with a constant upsurge of the primitive. 

His totemic work must be perceived through its link with the oldest part of the history of pottery, whilst also affirming its unique identity that gives it its place amongst the creations of other artists whose guiding inspiration was the spirit of liberty present in Picasso’s genius. Amongst those to be included in this singular group: Roger Capron, Jean Derval, Roger Picault, Roger Collet, Gilbert Valentin, Les Argonautes, André Baud, Paul Chambost, Gilbert Portanier, Eugène Fidler, Jacques Innocenti, Alexandre Kostanda, Robert Pérot, Palmyre Malarmey, François Raty, Gustave Reynaud, Albert Thiry, Michel Anas, Olivier Roy and all those who took part in this revival of the art of earth and fire. 

Marc Piano is inhabited by an imaginative vision, rendered clearly perceptible in the simplest glance at any tiny part of his terracotta; it is a vision that recounts a world where archaic forms, the privilege of invention, come together and intertwine in glowing constellations guarded by giant standing figures resembling gods from mythologies sprung from nowhere. Their mutants’ flesh, exhausted by the matter of their substance, chamotte,1 and coloured with manganese, has been fired under duress, always with uncertain outcome. All these characters stand in line like so many ancestors bordering our dreams of adventure, or lurk in the depths of passages where tribal spirits meet up. Brought back to life by the adventure of earth, water and fire, these unknown peoples breathe into the silence aside from us, like those who, around a fire in the darkness of night, observe the stars to tell the future drawn in the night sky. 


Frédéric Ballester

Director of the Art Centre 




Photographe : G. Giordano