James Jarvis: Fifty Two Spherers

The graphic illustrator behind 'Amos' and 'Martin' made a series of prints each week last year - here's the result!

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Even if you don’t know illustrator and accomplished graphic designer James Jarvis by name you will most certainly recognise one of his biggest creative feats - the toy character ‘Martin’. The Brit artist’s distinctive figurine not only became famous in its own right, but also helped kick start a craze for the ‘designer’ toy revolution, and prompted Jarvis to co-found toy company Amos. The independent outfit has put out over a hundred toys, published the comic Vortigern’s Machine and the Great Sage of Wisdom, and even published a collection of Jarvis’ drawings since its inception in 2002.

Last year I set out to make a series of prints, one per week, each print in an edition of seven, hence the 52 images

For Jarvis’ latest collection of work, 'Fifty-two Spheres', currently being exhibited at Beach London, the artist strips his illustrations down to the bare essentials creating a simple yet distinct character, ‘Sphere’, which also forms a regular comic strip that appears on Jarvis’ blog, entitled Spheric Dialogues. The series of lino prints, produced each week over the course of 2011, form a body of work yet to be shown together for the first time. Dazed caught up with the artist to find out why he wanted to go back to basics…

Dazed Digital: What was the inspiration behind the new works you've created for the show?
James Jarvis:
Last year I set out to make a series of prints, one per week, each print in an edition of seven, hence the 52 images. The Sphere part comes from an interest in reducing the design of a character to a bare minimum.

DD: Why did you decide to show the prints as a full exhibition?
James Jarvis:
Beach got in contact with me to ask if I would like to show something with them, and it seemed like a good opportunity to look at all the prints together.

DD: You've dabbled in various mediums from moving image to prints to sketching - do you have a favourite process to work within? Does you approach change with each process?
James Jarvis:
Drawing is probably the main constant in my work. Different projects end up informing on my approach to drawing in different ways. My current interest in drawing in a free and unaffected way probably came as a reaction to spending a lot of time making very tight, structured drawings as part of the process of designing toys.

The Sphere part comes from an interest in reducing the design of a character to a bare minimum

DD: Back in '98 when you created the ‘Martin’ character - did you have any idea how much of an impact it would have?
James Jarvis:
Not at all. The opportunity to design a toy just seemed like a fun thing to do at the time. But I can see that it has enabled me to follow a completely different, more independent creative path to the one I had imagined for myself.

DD: What other projects are you currently working on?
James Jarvis:
I’m still obsessed with the Sphere and this year I have been drawing and publishing a daily comic strip, Spheric Dialogues. It's also ten years since we started Amos, so we're doing some fun things to celebrate that as well.

Fifty-Two Spheres, by James Jarvis, at Beach London, 20 Cheshire Street, Off Brick Lane, Shoreditch, London, until 26 February 2012

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