Malika Favre is a French illustrator and graphic designer living in Barcelona. She was born in 1982. Her graphic art is defined by absolute minimalism within Pop Art and Op Art, and is often referred to as “Pop Art meets Op Art”. She mixes basic imagery with geometric design and has established a distinct minimalist art style via the use of positive and negative space and color, beautiful layouts, and a focus on the female form and its contours. Her distinct style has made her one of Europe’s most sought-after graphic designers. Favre’s clients include the new yorker, vogueBAFTA, Sephora and Penguin Books.
1. Do you consider your work to be “illustration” or “art”? Is there a difference in your opinion?
I’d rather not label it, frankly. I often remember a phrase I heard somewhere: “Art is about asking questions, design is about proving answers”. I like to think you can do both, context permitting. A New York hedging, for example, is never about giving answers. It serves as a mirror to today’s society and goes beyond the usual brief. In my practice, I try to be honest with myself, authentic with what I believe in and what I want to draw on. I feel very lucky to have reached a point where I have enough freedom to fully express myself. Some might call it illustration, others might consider it art. In the end, I’m not sure all of this really matters.
2. What is at the heart of your expression? How do you want your work to be experienced and interpreted?
Reduction and colors are at the heart of what I do. I’m obsessed with strong, shameless colors and especially the relationship between them. I see colors as an essential part of my work, a part that can really reinforce the message or the mood I’m trying to convey in a room. The mystery is also a key element. I often tend to hide stories in my work. A second layer of narration that reveals itself to the viewer. I am also fascinated by beauty. I see it as a great tool for attracting attention. Clean lines, bold shapes and limited palettes are my weapons of choice. As for its interpretation, I like the idea of letting the viewer interpret the image for themselves, draw the missing lines or decide on its meaning. Once an image is there, it no longer belongs to me.
3. Tell us about your creative journey – how has your style evolved over the years? What/who are your biggest influences?
Finding my style was a long and organic process. I have always been fascinated by Op Art and the mathematical principles that allow it to exist. Playing with the viewer’s perception has always been something that has fascinated me. Pop art, on the other hand, was more like a guilty pleasure: audacity, colors, accessibility, that’s what spoke to me. A style is really the sum of its parts, everything that resonates with an artist and shapes their vision. I didn’t design my own, it just happened slowly over time.
4. A work that you have created and of which you are particularly proud? Please share the details of how you designed it.
There were a few key projects in my career, ones that changed its course. One of my favorites was the 2013 Kamasutra alphabet for Penguin Books and the exhibition project that soon followed. I had such joy drawing these 26 letters from intertwined bodies. Also, I was just getting started and this felt like the first work that really felt like mine. At a deep level. Ironically, this also marks the moment when I decided never to accept commissions for my erotic work. I still think it’s too personal and worth protecting.
5. An upcoming project that you are passionate about… or an unrealized project that is close to your heart?
I am currently illustrating a large collection of books and am very excited for its release. It was on my wish list for a long time: a legacy publishing project. As for what might come next, I feel like I’m at a transition point in my career. Part of me feels like I’ve drawn everything I wanted to draw, and I’m finding it harder and harder to get excited about illustration projects. I think my dream today would be to move on to creating objects, ceramics, sculptures, even furniture. I’m moving slowly down this path, one collaboration at a time. We’ll see what the future holds….
Click here to read more about Illustrative Chronicles, a collection of STIR articles that examine illustration as a discipline for telling stories of the contemporary urban.
(Research support by Vatsala Sethi, Deputy Editorial Coordinator (Arts))