Javier Royo, known in the xarxes as Javiroyo, was born in 1972 in Zaragoza. He describes his work as writing with drawings. With a clearly recognizable style, his ironic humor puts his finger on the sore spot and tackles in equal parts hot topics such as racism, discrimination and the climate crisis.
An illustrator and graphic designer, he has been running his own studio, Chispum, since 2007. He is also the founder of the vinyl publishing house Chispum and the weekly online graphic humor magazine L’Estafador, of which he is editor. He collaborates as an illustrator for El País, El Setmanal, Quart Poder, La maleta de Portbou and Visual, where he has generated more repercussion in social networks, with more than 300,000 followers. He has published several books and comics such as Homo Machus(2020); La vida es Sho(2018) and , La Cebolla Asesina. Sex, lies and weapons of mass destruction(2009). He has been awarded the prize for best comic awarded by the Saló de Còmic d’Aragó (2018); he was a finalist in the Illustration World Awards, Environmental Illustration; he holds the Junceda d’Il-lustració award for best APIC comic (2016). His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally in cities such as Madrid, Lleida, Zaragoza, Havana, Brussels and Tokyo.
Among other things, your language is known for using irony and sarcasm in a comical way. How important is humour in dealing with serious topics or sensitive issues and what are its boundaries, if any?
To use humour is to undress serious subjects, it is a way of giving a peripheral vision of a delicate subject.
I believe that humour should not have limits, I think it is made to play with those borders between what is allowed and what is irreverent; between what we believe is already built, therefore, it should not be questioned. That’s why we have to touch those issues that seem to remain taboo because it is the only way to make us all as a society have a better mental health.
Feminism takes a very prominent place in your work, how do you think humour can help to destroy male chauvinism?
I believe that what humour does above all is to highlight things that we have in front of us and that we often take for granted. So, humour really puts into question things that we take for granted and that are not normal.
In the case of feminism and the fight against male chauvinism and for equality, above all we have to highlight those factors that end up exposing the system, since a lot of situations and facts that have to do with the inequality of women and that sometimes do not seem to be so obvious, tend to happen all the time. That is why humour and visibility play such an important role.
In your career there are works with large publishers, but you have also been involved in smaller fanzine projects. Which attributes of both worlds are the ones you like?
I started in the world of fanzines, publishing when they were still printed with photocopies and stapled, with a small scope, since they made a hundred copies. I think that in the end, more than the format is an attitude towards your work, that’s why I can continue publishing in fanzines while I publish on Instagram.
Even though in the networks everything is more susceptible, since they can censor my work, for example, I recently had a problem with a cartoon about suicide. Even and so. my way of acting does not change, and my goal remains the same, both in the most alternative worlds as in the most institutionalized. What interests me is to be able to reach the people, since in the end the scope of freedom and publication is generated by each one of us.
-You have a great influence through social networks such as Instagram or Twitter. What importance should be given to them and how do you think is the best way to use them as an artist?
Social networks can be different tools for each person. In my case Instagram is the network I use the most and where I have more followers, thus becoming my channel of communication, as if it were a digital newspaper because it is where I can transmit my work: messages with drawings.
Recently, talking to Julio Rey, a cartoonist who works for the newspaper El Mundo, he told me: “what you do on the networks is reaching far more people than the cartoons we do in the newspaper”, turning individuals into communicators.
You have to keep in mind that social networks have two sides. On the one hand, you can reach a lot of people and that can lead to some friction. In the end, in the networks you don’t have a defined audience, but everyone has access. In the past, when I used to publish in fanzines, magazines, or newspapers, I had a context, since it was bought by a specific audience and they were people who had common criteria, so the guidelines were clearer. Now with Instagram the context has blown up because, as I said, everyone has access, generating a volume of people who like your work and others who, even if they don’t like it, follow you.
Because of this freedom and easy access, it generates positive and negative comments, so I set myself some limits, so as not to enter the debates that are generated in the comments of my publications. I keep in mind that as followers come, they go and I don’t have to care about what they say, for better or worse. You have to take it all with caution, both the good comments and the bad ones, in the end I’m a little old, so I’m handling it pretty well.
What is your opinion about graffiti and the current street art scene?
I don’t know much about the graffiti world, since I come from the world of illustration, but I can still give you my point of view on the street art scene. I see a confluence between the spaces traditionally used by graffiti writers and those that many illustrators are currently using. Like the example of Amaia Arrazola, who has collaborated in the Art al Tram project, she started painting in paper and smaller formats, and now she is painting in large format murals.
When these confluences occur, I think that very beautiful and interesting things can emerge. I am very pro-mixes, I believe that evolution is based on adaptation, and this arises when you leave an environment to explore another, I can even compare it with the ecosystems in which animals live together. That’s how I see what is happening between graffiti and urban art; a mix of people coming from different places.
A comparison of what is happening in the world of urban art would be the current situation in the borders of countries, where we find a diversity of people and different stories that lead to a variety of actions, being these hot spots of action and change.
There are many changes happening in the world of graffiti, illustration and communication that I find very interesting.
What similarities do you think there are between the disciplines of graffiti, muralism and comics or graphic humour? Do you think it is important to load the works with conceptual content and avoid the purely aesthetic or playful?
There are very interesting connections, since they are developed in popular spaces. Comics and graphic humour come from the most popular world, from the street… So, it is more linked to reality and also to the most alternative. I was born in a neighbourhood in Zaragoza where all this already existed, because I remember there were rappers and a world that connected comic and graffiti.
I think there is a point of union between aesthetics and the fact of communicating concepts. And yes, it is very important to tell things. In my case, more than illustrating what I do is writing with the drawings, since I read comics as a child and that influenced my style, in which I have always been writing while drawing. Telling things with the image is a very powerful act and is a resource increasingly used, so I believe in its importance as a form of communication.
What are your artistic references beyond illustrators?
I could talk about Saul Steinberg, who was the grandfather of all of us. An artist who talked a lot about the visual writer and how to take it to other levels. As well as the designer and illustrator Bob Gill, the painter David Hockney, the artist David Shrigley, the artist Julian Opie, all of them references for me.
What do you consider the figure of Banksy to be in the contemporary art world and what is your assessment of your participation in the Banksy: The Art of Protest exhibition?
I think Banksy has been the great reference and artist who has been able to go beyond urban art without complexes and take it to great stages. I think he has been above all very smart, with a vision that combines many things, his work is really very complex. It is not only what we see or what he tells us, but it has an indisputable artistic quality. And it is associated with a whole communication strategy of the work itself and of the character. Therefore, I believe that as a figure and phenomenon he is essential to understand what is happening today. He is a figure who knows how to make the most of the moment and uses technology as a tool for dissemination, impacting on the most global issues with current reflections where many issues and situations that we are currently experiencing converge: globalization, art, political movements, repression, etc. From this point of view, I can conclude that he is a relevant figure.
On the other hand, having collaborated in Art al Tram, within the exhibition of “Banksy The Art of Protest” at the Design Museum of Barcelona, is something that excites me a lot. I have to add that having made my work sharing the space with such a figure makes you feel small and I think it is something circumstantial compared to an artist of such magnitude. I want to thank the opportunity and trust given by all the entities involved.
Do you have some project in hand that you would like to tell us about?
I want to tell you about a big project, almost vital, that links small projects I’m currently working on.
It focuses on approaching creativity through images and drawing. Among them is the book on creativity through drawing that I want to bring out in 2022. As well as the creativity space I’m working on to do Work Shops together with other artists. It will take place in Hospitalet, Barcelona, because we want to promote the meeting between people, to enhance the connections between them, because they are blurring in the digital context in which we live. Therefore, we propose to develop projects in community, always connecting it with creativity through drawing.