Wildlife Reimagined: Simon Arizpe and The Wild

12/05/2016 16:24 | Updated 12 May 2016

A man whose mind is intertwined harmoniously with curiosity and creativity, New York based illustrator Simon Arizpe has created something quite outstanding. The Wild is unlike any other pop-up book I've seen before, structured to resemble a forest bear devouring a fish, The Wild then reveals a tale as you play with it. Triggering ones imagination, unleashing that which is so often lost among adults, an explosion of childlike wonder.

The Wild is above all charming, igniting a feeling of incandescent reverie, and its decorative colours, bright and cheerful, catch the eye. I was reminded, slightly, of Norse and Slavic folklore, with Simon's focus specifically on the natural world and the animal kingdom. It's hard not to smile when you look at the intricacy and sheer exuberance of his work.


Described as dangerous flexagons, this six sided hexi-flexigon is a mathematically precise construction, its forms and shapes hold an Aristotelian mixed with Pythagorean aesthetic, the most natural and most beautiful. I asked Simon about this mix of mathematics and the natural world that so enthralls him, he said "It's something I'm drawn to because I believe everybody can look at the natural world and if you're not reminiscing with it, you can break it down to it's smaller parts, so for example you can take a tree, break it down to it's leaves, then examine it's utilitarian form, creating something unique from that."


I have long had a particular aversion to utilitarianism, yet when it is combined with and inspired by something that is innately beautiful, nature being a prime example, there produces an absolute, atavistic connection. Something which cannot be broken. The late illustrator Charlie Harper, whose works such as The Golden Book of Biology, fused together a modernist artistic approach, with a utilitarian sensibility marked him out as an unusual character in his field. It's Harper's illustrations that proved a major influence on Simon when creating The Wild "Charlie Harper is a pretty big influence on me" he says "just because he really takes anything and everything, every biome, every animal etc, and tries to separate them into what they're doing, drawing from their natural ways."


With The Wild being, in itself, a miniature world that reveals a narrative, stylistically, Simon had to think hard in how to keep the balance between his rich mathematical style and the story. "Stylistically it's complicated, because when you just hand it to someone, cold turkey, they don't really know what they're looking at, as it's not exactly a book, it's this sphere that they have to just start playing with if they really want to understand, so I wanted to make it as approachable as I could, reducing the subject matter into its simplest forms, so what is the simplest thing you can do to create a bear and still have people easily understand what they're looking at. How simple can you go and still get people to have some emotion and empathy for these animals. It sounds silly, but you know something with eyes that you can kind of look at and then say well I feel something for that bear, that fish, because it's presented in a specific way."

I must admit, I had never looked at this arena of paper craft with any degree of interest before, yet after my conversation with Simon, I was able to see the colossal degree of creativity, skill and scientific knowledge that goes into even the simplest design. Paper craft is an art form that requires varying degrees of viewing the world, in order to create that very endearing sense of magic.

Images courtesy of Simon Arizpe