JAMES JARVIS STUDIO VISIT | LONDON
Hi James, Congratulations on your latest collaboration with Nike SB. Can you please tell us more about how the joint venture came about?
When Nike asked if I’d like to do some graphics for them I’d just done a big project on philosophy. Nike loved that approach and the connection between skating and drawing. I feel like the drawings I made are really connected to what I do now. I don’t come up with a style consciously, it just evolves.
Drawing is a pivotal part of your work, and this skill has remained a constant in your work even through various mediums.
After 10 years of making toys and T-shirt graphics for Amos I felt we’d done everything we could in the context of a company, and I wanted to be more free. In the last few years I’ve been concentrating on making drawing the centre of what I do.
Skateboarding is a community, where everyone speaks the same language.
Exactly. And it’s an empowering thing, because it encourages a sense of community. It’s funny because the fashion side of it, is confusing. Because it’s part of it and what brings people in – and when you get involved with it, you realise it’s just decoration on top of the fundamental thing. The fundamental thing is that skateboarding is a physical thing. It’s a physical interaction with space, and has nothing to do with what trainers you’re wearing, or what angle your hat is, or how baggy your trousers are.
It’s a community, that anyone can join or not join.
When I discovered skateboarding, I never had a crew. I got involved in it in quite an individual way, I just thought it was amazing so I did it… my initial thinking was just going out by myself and skateboarding. And I’ve always done that in life, I’ve always kind of wanted to find my own way through things. I love that Groucho Marx quote, “Not wanting to be a member of any club that would want me as a member”. It’s how I look at things.
You could say then that skateboarding, it’s a way of thinking. Not only the physical, but a pivotal mental aspect too.
All skateboarders are philosophers without even realising. Anyone who looks at a curb, or anything that they’ve re-appropriated, they’re making it a philosophical leap to do that. It’s why I titled my latest exhibition, ‘No More Negative Space’. It came from watching this Thrasher King Of The Road segment where Ben Raybourn drops in on a vertical wall. He gets all four wheels on it, and he rides off on the bottom and there’s no transition. He’s colonised space that was otherwise wouldn’t have been used. I just love that there’s no space that can’t be used in skateboarding. So to me, there was a philosophical level to what he was doing as well as him just killing it.
What do you think about the state of skateboarding today?
In some ways culturally it’s less interesting, it’s more homogenous than it’s ever been. The fashion of it is more mainstream, the graphics are less revolutionary. But the physical side of it is more uncompromising and amazing than it’s ever been. So even if the graphic and fashion side of it has been appropriated by mainstream culture, the physical side of it is radder than it’s ever been! Sean Cliver and McKee are around the same age as me, and I remember being an art student and looking at their graphics and thinking this is what I want to do. I was never described as a skate artist before, and since I’ve done this collaboration with NIKE SB I’m ‘James Jarvis: Skate Artist’. Being referenced alongside legendary artists Marc McKee, Sean Cliver and Jim Phillips, there’s this whole tradition of skate art that I’m proud to be a part of.
_‘No More Negative Space‘, an exhibition by James Jarvis, is currently on at the HHH Gallery in Tokyo until May 31, 2015.
Photography: Rei Delos-Reyes
Interview: Champ Studio
The Nike SB x James Jarvis collaboration is available on nike.com
And see our Editorial shot in London, here.