DPP Home Profiles John Paul Caponigro - Caponigro On Caponigro

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

John Paul Caponigro - Caponigro On Caponigro

The renowned fine-art photographer and digital technology master goes one-on-one with himself in an exclusive DPP interview

JPC: What's the function of symmetry in your work?
JPC: The psychologist Hermann Rorschach developed his inkblot tests after seeing the drawings of a mystic named Kerner who felt that his work drew him in contact with the spirit world. Like Kerner, I feel this work gives visible form to a hidden dimension in nature and to spirit. Like Rorschach, I realize these images function as mirrors and that the process we use to decode the images says as much about us as do our conclusions.

My images serve a similar function to mandalas—mandalas without culturally specific iconography.
The mandala is a pan-cultural occurrence that usually arises spontaneously in times of crisis as a tool for self-reflection, integration and self-definition.

While I've been exploring it longer and more deeply than most, many digital artists are exploring symmetry. It's an interesting graphic device capable of creating powerful constructions and abstractions. Symmetry for symmetry's sake is mere design. For it to be truly successful, I think you have to establish a highly personal relationship with the technique and make sure that the technique is compatible with the content of your work. Symmetry heightens the self-reflective qualities of my work. Symmetry suggests living forms of life, and through the use of symmetry, my work suggests that we can expand our notions of what we consider living or imbued with spirit, looking at all of nature as dynamic parts of a much greater life process.

JPC: I'm perplexed by your move away from narrative toward abstraction.
JPC: I've been profoundly influenced by mythology. In the world's great stories, I see the psyche of mankind made visible. In my earlier work, I used stories and symbols in an attempt to access that dimension. Progressively, I've moved away from this, trying to sustain a similar activity while diminishing the role of story and symbolism, which is so often historically and culturally dependent, in an attempt to work in a more timeless and universal way.

JPC: Isn't it ironic that we're just as influenced by the things that repel us as the things that attract us?
JPC: Yes. I know where you're going. I railed against abstraction as a young art student. I felt it left the viewer behind. Now I use it to include the viewer.

JPC: I hardly have to ask you questions. I could prompt you with a single word, since you know what I'm asking anyway. Surfaces.
JPC: I have a complex relationship with surfaces. I trust surfaces. They reveal so much. I've spent my whole life looking at the surfaces other artists create and know that they reveal so much about their creators. I've spent my whole life looking at the surfaces of nature and wonder what they reveal about their creator.

I also distrust surfaces. Every surface conceals something else behind or beneath it. We need surfaces to see, however, they limit our perceptions. Surfaces are products of the material world, therefore impermanent. The material world, including our bodies (organs of sensory perception), set the conditions for our participation in it but they don't determine it. Somehow I link this thought to a phrase from physics—energy can neither be created nor destroyed. I need to think more on how to clarify that connection. But that thought leads me to this one: My work is a celebration of the particular and the ephemeral, and a quest for the essential and the eternal.


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