Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Meeting the King of Vinyl (2006)

Back in 2006, I met two superb artists in one week. Today I found my hastily-scribbled copy about the meeting with one of them: James Jarvis. To see the original post, click here. Otherwise, read on ...

I got a phone call this afternoon from Joel the Journalist to say that James Jarvis was speaking tonight at the Peacock Theatre, London as one of a series of President Lectures put on by D&AD. So, we went along.

So who is James Jarvis? He's one of the stars of the Urban Vinyl movement (see previous posts) and probably the most successful British artist working in this area. His toy range is hugely popular and his figures regularly sell on e-bay for silly prices.

Jarvis firstly talked about his influences (as all artists do as it’s invariably the first question they’re asked). He cited a bizarre range that included Lego, Richard Scarry, Mike McMahon (an artist I've waxed lyrical about before - he drew Judge Dredd and Slaine for 2000AD comic) and Gustav DorĂ©. He also mentioned the Constructivist movement, Bauhaus and the industrialisation of art process leading to art product. All of which culminated (his words) into ‘the obsessive desire to create whole worlds and for every detail in those worlds to be absolutely right’. The kind of obsession Jarvis admits to is things like drawing the trucks on skateboards properly, researching exactly what knots look like, the shape of street lamps and whether his rock star comic character Lars should wear cowboy boots. Wouldn’t that mean that Lars’s universe had horses in it? Did he want horses in Lars’ world? As he spoke, he drew - his doodly art being projected behind him onto giant screens.

Jarvis’s figures have a corporacy about them whether drawn or sculpted; they all have the same potato-shaped heads and this has become his trademark. Whether dressed as police officers, wimple-wearing mediaeval maidens, Cavaliers and Roundheads or Vikings, the inhabitants of his ‘Potato-headed Multiverse’ all look as if they belong to the same species. And they have no noses or ears. They are not us but their society echoes ours.

I got to meet the guy afterwards and enjoyed a very enlightening chat. I learned that his idea of fun is to run 26 miles in marathons, that he thinks police uniforms are 'scary but incredible iconic' and that his Amos toy company takes his name from his own middle name. And he signed my pink King Ken*.

It doesn't get much better than that.

*Not as rude as it sounds. King Ken is Jarvis’s iconic giant ape figure. There have been several differently coloured limited editions. The latest is pink.

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