A TALK WITH SCHELTENS AND ABBENES
Interview by Chiara Tiso
Mutina realizes its first advertising campaign. An important step, achieved to reflect the values of the brand, to recount the 10 years that marked its history and at the same time to look at the future. To celebrate this important anniversary, the campaign contains all the collections that marked the successes of the company. Ceramics talk to each other, in three architectural composition of great visual impact. Scheltens & Abbenes, a Dutch artist duo, have been called to realize this little work of art, to give a new and fresh appeal to the product, but also to point out how the Mutina ceramics don’t act only as surfaces, but as real interior design objects. Their work is characterized by technical perfection and craftsmanship, strong pictorial clarity and customized set. The specialty of Scheltens & Abbenes is the meticulous organization of the objects in configurations that have a strong two-dimensionality or graphic impact.
Some of your shots for Mutina remind of some Cubist works by Georges Braque and Juan Gris, where, despite the forced two-dimensionality of the canvas, patterns, geometric shapes and colors mix up and enhance each other. What’s your relationship with art and in which way does it influence your photography?
Similar to art in general, we also ask ourselves during the process of photography to look carefully. We have a collective memory in which art and the everyday is contained to use in matter of need.
Was it your first time with ceramics?
We never shot tiles before. It was a challenge to get to an image that shows the tiles in all its crafted beauty without becoming a product shot. We made maquettes with the tiles from the point of view of the camera. In this way three and two dimensions start to conflict each other. The ceramics tiles become the walls of the architecture itself. This inside out notion leads to a certain abstraction and enables you to look at the images on different levels.
The set of the campaign was characterized by an extraordinary precision and attention to details, it was made like puzzle in which each piece must fit with the others. How would you explain the creative process behind the technical decisions you made?
First we had to get a grip on the whole Mutina collection. By regrouping the different designers we saw how colour and structures would help each other. During this process it became clear that these maquettes would only succeed by the precise execution of the idea. Technique and creative process are in constant conversation.
To achieve the perfection you need to be in complete harmony, how was working together on this new, challenging project? And in general, how do you “divide” your work?
We’ve been working and living together for thirteen years now so it’s not a challenge to work in harmony. We know how we work and we leave a good space for a healthy creative battle. During the development of the idea we use each others mind to find the right balance in the idea. We do switch places during the whole proces however, Maurice is looking over the more photographic technical aspects and Liesbeth keeps an eye on how this evolves in the set.
The research on materials and manufacturing techniques is a key factor for Mutina. Has it been difficult for you to convey the texture of the ceramics?
We knew that this would become very important for the image, showing the textures and material so one could almost feel the heaviness of the material only by looking. Finding the right light does the trick for colour and texture!
In your work you use to decontextualize everyday objects, giving them new life. Is with the creation of distance that you learn to look an object in a different way?
Every object/product has a potential to become a ‘building stone’ for a composition. It helps that we can look though the initial purpose of objects and find another quality that brings us further. We practiced this play for many years. Sometimes we are even not aware of all the ‘in between’ decisions which actually feels pretty good!
What has left to you the encounter with the Mutina family?
It was a pleasure to get to know Mutina, leaving us with a lot of creative freedom in the concept and photography. In this we saw that Mutina is used to work with designers that need the same play ground to make something special.
If you had to decor (again) you house, which collections would you use?
We were charmed by the Pico Collection of the Bouroullec’s. While working with this collection it took our attention when we walked over the small dots by chance in an every day pavement in the neighborhood and thought it made their design even more smart and beautiful!