Jean-Paul Cattin is a fantastic, Geneva-based photographer with lots of high-profile clients. However, he’s also an artist who created poignant abstract photographs www.jeanpaulcattin.com. I spoke with him about his hip, edgy work and what inspires him.
MICHAEL: Hey Jean-Paul, Your work is very cool. You're a photographer, yet your work has the vibe of minimalist abstract paintings. Yet the fact that they're photos makes them even more sleek and contemporary. How do you see this?
JEAN-PAUL: Thank you Michael. Yes, the photographs seek to reveal the elegance that nature alone creates to perfection. By combining both the energetic and the emotional states experienced at a certain moment in time, the lens of the camera becomes the mediator between nature and me. Therefore, it’s the tool I choose to use in order to produce contemporary paintings.
MICHAEL: I've never heard anyone refer to photographs as paintings. That doesn't mean that all photos are paintings, does it? What's your process?
JEAN-PAUL: I was not referring to "paintings" in the literary sense, but as contemporary pictures or photographic images. The emotions felt when confronted with the work may be associated more with those provoked by a painting than a photograph. About my process, even though I work in a spontaneous and intuitive manner concerning my subjects, the pictures are taken with a high-resolution camera (65 million pixels) in order to have a maximum amount of details that reproduce the beauty of erosion in a realistic manner. The photographic work is largely inspired by cosmopolitan urban environments such as walls, floors, garbage trucks and other terrestrial materials. The pictures are then subjected to extreme contrast adjustments in post-production until the intended tones are revealed.
MICHAEL: Yes, I know what you meant. Manipulation and production of the image are almost like an artist painting on canvas. I know a few great French photographers, but where are you based?
JEAN-PAUL: I am Swiss actually, based in Geneva. Contemporary photography is also very present in Switzerland. We have many galleries, museums and festivals for artists to show their photographic work.
MICHAEL: Geneva strikes me as being a very hip, contemporary, progressive city. How does living in Switzerland influence your work?
JEAN-PAUL: Geneva is multicultural and cosmopolitan. You can meet people from all over the world here. Because of its architecture, small size and elegant touch, it has a unique charm that most people either love or hate. I grew up here, it is quiet and relaxing to live in, but I cannot say that the city has had an important influence on my creative work so far, or at least not yet. On the other hand, New York and its lifestyle recently inspired me to produce the series "New York Fingerprint".
MICHAEL: I'm a native New Yorker and New York continues to inspire me. How did it inspire you? What's "New York Fingerprint" all about?
JEAN-PAUL: New York is lively and adventurous; one day it will give you extreme energy while another it will leave you completely dried up. It's not easy to describe why, but there is definitely something about the noise, the smell, something about the size of the buildings and the unknown that cannot leave me insensitive to it. When working on "New York Fingerprint," I wanted to capture the traces of shock, tension and the impact of time and human life on the urban-boned foundations of the city. At this moment, the city is undergoing many changes. The environment is changing and our attitude towards the environment is changing as well. In the series "New York Fingerprint," I captured the traces of a rugged New York charm that may soon disappear. Several of my projects are a reflection on our environment and its transformation through time, such as my most recent work "Motel de Founex".
MICHAEL: When you're actually creating your art, is the experience more intellectual or emotional? Can you create something that’s completely one or the other?
JEAN-PAUL: The experience is emotional then intellectual and then emotional again.
MICHAEL: What do you think of the art world today? Do you feel emerging artists are ignored or is that changing?
JEAN-PAUL: I think that the art world today is very creative. The press in general is talking a lot about contemporary art and it has its place in today's art world. I don't think that emerging artists are ignored. However, there is a lot of competition. Visibility and creating the buzz is the challenge today and thankfully there are blogs which are open to write about emerging artists. As for the galleries, there are some that are interested in showing the work of emerging artists, but the competition remains difficult if you consider the enormous number of artists contacting the galleries.
MICHAEL: Most artists don't really think of themselves as businesspeople. However, isn't this necessary if you actually want to be successful? How much of your working time is spent on art and how much do you spend on the business side?
JEAN-PAUL: Yes, it's very important. I take 50% of my time for reflection and new projects and 50% to network and create new contacts.
MICHAEL: Your work seems so open-ended to me. Different people can have completely different ideas and interpretations of the work. Are you okay with that? Shouldn't people look at your work and understand what YOU were thinking and feeling while you were creating it?
JEAN-PAUL CATTIN: I am very open to multiple interpretations. Art is personal and different for each person. I think that with abstraction, people have the freedom to see what they want and I find it interesting to know how deeply certain spectators interpret my photographs. For example, during the opening of "Motel de Founex" my latest Solo exhibition at Masters & Pelavin Gallery in New York, I had the chance to meet a very sensitive and intuitive young man who gave me an in depth analysis of my work. I was impressed. In the series "Motel de Founex," I took pictures of an abandoned motel off the highway near Geneva. The rooms were abandoned for several years, yet they still reflected traces of different forms of life. You see, when you have a strong relationship with the subject, the viewer can feel it in the final image. However, this is not systematic with other series such as "Ghost" and "Monster." I left less room for interpretation because I wanted the viewer to see the image like I did. It’s sometimes difficult for me to explain my more abstract works as they are a fusion of many elements and experiences from my life.
MICHAEL: Finally Jean Paul, what role do you think art plays in the world? What makes art relevant for you and why should people consider your work?
JEAN-PAUL: I think that art has always had an important role in the world. It reflects our lifestyle and the manner in which our society evolves. In my opinion, what makes art enjoyable and interesting is its ability to surprise, provoke and interrogate. Opportunities to see something new with every new observation or on the contrary, things that don't change but that we never get bored of are examples of ambiguities which make art interesting for me. I have noticed that those who are attracted to my photography keep an open mind and each person has a unique story to tell about it. Abstraction in photography is something very new and I think that people who are interested in the new forms that the medium can offer will be interested in my work. We accepted abstract painters, why not abstract photographers? Are we not all artists?
MICHAEL: Well said. Thanks Jean-Paul.
Check out Jean-Paul Cattin’s cool work at www.jeanpaulcattin.com