issue 200 - October 1989
Hector Cattolica has produced some of the most dramatic
illustrations to have appeared in the NI over the years. Peter
Stalker spoke to him about his work in Argentina and France.
'I'm a public service artist. Not in the sense that I work for any authority. I mean that each image tries to express something that belongs to millions of people.'
Hector Cattolica is an Argentinian graphic artist living in Paris - and one of the NI's favourite contributors. His images have appeared again and again in the magazine over the last ten years (the most recent was on the cover of the Cancer issue). We frequently telephone asking him to illustrate some obscure or abstract concept. And he always comes up with an answer.
Hector first left Buenos Aires in 1962 - just to visit Europe and see where his (Italian) father had lived. But he stayed on in Paris until the dramatic events of May 1968.
'Before the student demonstrations I had been working with a group of Latin American intellectuals in Paris,helping bring out a magazine. But all that was put to one side when the protests started and we took to the streets. We were committed, perhaps too commuted and then very depressed by the response. Mind you, I still see many of the images I created then reproduced in other countries. I like to see them. I feel like a father who watches what happens to his children.'
After May 1968 he returned to Argentina. But he didn't like what he found - a student movement, influenced to some extent by the events in -Europe, but calling for a return to the past in the -shape of Juan Peron. He returned to Paris three years later.
'Events proved me right. It was with Peron that the repression started. Many of my friends followed me to Paris or they disappeared or they died. I never went back during the military period. My family warned me not to. Thanks to the war with yourselves (the British) democracy returned with Alfonsin and I was able to return on a visit a year ago.
'Here in Paris I'm what they call a touche a tout (Jack of all trades) in literature, architecture and graphic design. The only journalism which I have done regularly is with the NI which is the group with which I have had the best understanding during my stay in Europe. I don't have the same kind of link with any group in France.
'The images which I like best are the ones which other people like - which have the best response. So the helmet and the jaw for example - to illustrate the arms trade. Or the ear which shouts, about noise pollution. Or the poster I produced for you of the doves of peace made with human hands. I try to use images that carry other images so that they keep on saying something each time you look at them.
'I'm trying all the time to work against commercialization, against the idea that every author's work is a product directed towards consumers. I like to treat people as I would like to be treated by them, as a citizen.'
Will he return to Argentina now? He seems unsure - particularly after the election of the Peronist President Menem. This reversion to Peronism represents to him the contradiction that runs through Argentina. It is a place where there is no real distinction between the civil and the military. 'We are either a civilian country in military uniform - or a military regime in civilian clothes.'