From devising Cobi, the mascot dog of the Barcelona Olympics, to conceiving his 2005 sculpture Crash!, an oversize reproduction of a seemingly exploding 1959 Chevrolet Impala, Javier Mariscal is a multifaceted, uninhibited force of natural creativity. This Spanish phenomenon is somehow able to dance in the high-pressure orbits of graphics, architecture, design, furniture, movies and art without ever losing his playful exuberance. He’s not so much in his second childhood as still enjoying his first.
One of 11 brothers and sisters, Mariscal, born in Valencia, grew up with the sun, the Mediterranean, and vivid street festivals. Each year, for the San José festival, he would construct his own miniature ‘fallas’, based on the colourful cardboard sculptures - some realistic, others crazily exaggerated - that Valencians traditionally set on fire during the celebrations. He quit art college in Barcelona after two years, and when he was 23 produced his earliest hippy comics, which were suppressed by General Franco’s censors. After the dictator’s death in 1975, comics and other artforms flourished in Spain, and word of Mariscal’s versatility started spreading abroad.
His next film project and exhibition, after last year’s acclaimed animated movie Chico & Rita (out now on DVD and adapted into a graphic novel from SelfMadeHero), reunite him with his talismanic cartoon critters Los Garriris, hybrids of Mickey and Miro (or Goofy and Dufy). “This gang of characters was born suddenly, without me realising. They were uncontrollable. When I draw Los Garriris, I always feel they are the ones who make the decisions. Out of all of them, the tall one, Fermin, and the short one, Piker, decided that they were enough.” The pair like nothing better than to ride their Vespas, hang out with girls and go to the beach with their fishing dog, Julian. “Julian is the most intelligent. He never speaks but he controls the situation. He has his head on his shoulders.”
Mariscal likes surprising himself so he never makes preparatory scripts or sketches for his comics. “There is no pencil in Los Garriris, there is ink, the pen scratching the paper straight to the open grave, but there’s no eraser - you can’t ‘undo’, so any mistake you have to turn into something good.” After his intoxicating retrospective at London’s Design Museum in 2009, he currently has his first solo show in Brussels at Galerie Champaka, where the two new Garriris strips in the April issue of Art Review are showing. “I love Los Garriris very much. They are my family, my paper family.”
From Cobi, the mascot of the Barcelona Olympic Games, to furniture design for Magis, via covers for The New Yorker, amd not forgetting the magical animated movie Chico y Rita, Javier Mariscal is one of the most creative illustrators and designers of today. London’s Design Museum in 2009 and Barcelona’s Pedrera last year presented different facets of this purveyor of happiness. The most intimate part of his universe, however, remains the Garriris. For Galerie Champaka, the artist has created some fifty brand new works exploring this universe dedicated to the joys of living and answered a few questions about these characters.
Where does the term Garriris come from?
As a child, I had quite a hard time learning how to read. One day, when I was reading a story to my younger brother, I came across a very angry character, I pronounced it as “grrrrr, garriri”. Later, when I created these characters, always angry with the world, I immediately thought “Look: a garriri!”.
How have the Garriris evolved since you created them?
They were born almost unconsciously, and the Garriris quickly became uncontrolable. They’re as curious as they are dynamic. When I draw them, I often get the impression that it’s them who take the decisisions. At the start, the Garriris were numerous and small in size, then they got progressively bigger and their numbers reduced. They discovered the beach, the moon, the pines, the waves and the dunes. I love them a lot. They are my family, my paper family.
How would you define the personality of each of the characters in the Garriris universe?
When the gang of Garriris disappeared, only Fermin, the big one, and Piker, the little, were left. I don’t know why, but no doubt they decided that they were all that was needed, they had created a space of their own. It was from that moment that they came to life in the form of comics. Julian, the fishing dog, is born out of the blue and joins the duo forever. He never speaks, but he controls the situation, as he has his head on his shoulders.
So the Garriris insisted on being in one of your rare selling exhibitions?
This universe is the closest one to me, I have never abandoned it and I am working on adapting it into animation. On top of this, I have the feeling that the Garriris will be really happy in Brussels, a city which hosts the Atomium, a building dedicated to utopia. My characters really appreciate utopias…
Posted: March 13, 2011
This Article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of Art Review.