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Horiyoshi III and David Lee Roth


*New* Photos Added To The Gallery

Tattoos by Hanumantra Lamar

www.modernbodyart.co.uk

Modern Body Art, Birmingham

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What is Art? (Part 2)

By Nick Baxter

Last year I started collecting my thoughts on the continual debate in my head about what art is, and how it can be (among other things) an effective form of communication. That effort was and still is intertwined with the process of further understanding my own art, and all other art, as well. In hindsight, I thought the initial writing (here and here) was a bit unfocused, and since it was also incomplete, I took the time recently to revisit those blog entries and rework them into a more cohesive essay.
The final part of that essay, as mentioned in the second of those prior blog posts, is about my belief that photojournalism can be viewed as a creative art form, possessing an almost-accidental form of raw beauty capable of inspiring other works of art (such as many of my own). This critique of photojournalism introduces broader questions about the “unintended” as art, and–for now–completes my investigation into the sneakily complicated debate “What is art?”

In the future I’ll post the final version of the essay in its entirety, but for now here is the “part 2″ continuation of those prior blog posts.

Photojournalism and the Unintended as Art

In the last 100 years, photojournalism has become a fixture of our visual landscape. On the surface, it’s simply defined as the use of images to tell a news story or to report on current events. In this role, the photos are not art, and their photographers are not acting as artists, which means their images are typically held to strict ethical standards of honesty, impartiality, and objectivity. But these attributes are graded on a scale that becomes increasingly inexact amidst the complexity of postmodern thought and the digital age of endless reproduction and re-appropriation. This is the point at which the question “What is art?” becomes relevant and fascinating to me, when applied to the medium of photojournalism.
I’ve always appreciated the naïve purity of an image that’s been produced with no pretense of art, utterly uninhibited by the finicky shackles of artistic rules or the whims of unreliable muses like inspiration. In this open and wild space, artistic qualities and natural beauty are given the chance to emerge on their own, unintended and raw, like the strongest of weeds in a perfectly manicured lawn, and photography seems to be an ideal medium for this phenomenon. This element of chance can produce quite powerful images, capable of communicating intensely to the viewer while remaining—and precisely because they remain—firmly grounded in the truth of reality “as it happened.”
And so the commonplace photos we’re bombarded with through ever-increasing media saturation begin ostensibly as visual data comprised only of ‘facts’ or neutral information, yet end up loaded with symbolism, embedded with the perceptions and beliefs of their creators and audience after becoming the subject of this artistic line of inquiry.

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One of my all-time favorites (sorry I could not find the photographer or credit online).

In studying art history, it seems this afterlife of the journalistic image became much more possible in the wake of the Dada movement, when artists (including photographers) carved out new niches for their work beyond mere decoration or commemoration of important people or places. Art in the 20th century became increasingly deconstructivist, philosophically charged, and conceptual in nature, filling multiple roles while having its meaning manipulated by the increasingly complex worldviews of both creator and audience1.

Because of this evolution, just about anything could be considered art in the right context, meaning that most contemporary art now resides as much in the blurry, ambiguous realm of provocative ideas as it does in the realm of traditional craft. Hence a museum visitor might encounter an exhibit of random paint splotches that, beneath its completely underwhelming, childlike appearance, contains a metaphor referencing complex political or psychological theories learned by the artist through years of intense academic study.

 

This can be maddening to the viewer who simply wants to marvel at a skillfully executed object of beauty, or it can be liberating for those who want to engage in debate, controversy, or social change through the arts. My own art has always attempted to straddle this fence by incorporating the best of both worlds: technical, precise handling of paint in the realism tradition, yet depicting modern subject matter and informed by the angst and alienation of postmodern philosophies. It is my belief that photojournalism in the modern age, thanks to that 20th-century process of expansion and deconstruction, straddles a similar fence, one separating objective observations from subjective beauty and meaning.

This ability of the journalistic photograph to transcend genres is confirmed in the academic community by the fact that “Breaking News Photography” is a Pulitzer Prize category. This prestigious yearly award started in 1917 as a way to honor impactful achievements in American journalism, literature, and music. Winning photographs are resurrected as art objects, receiving appreciation for their poignancy and beauty—a second life of sorts, after their initial purpose or function in the journalistic media has been served.

This second life also takes the form of photo essays, curated and arranged into cohesive narratives, which are now commonly presented in art and lifestyle publications, fine art galleries, and museums throughout the world. Depending on the intentions of the photographer and exhibiting institution or publication, as well as the sensibilities of the viewing audience, these photographs may be appreciated for their communication about the world events that comprise their content, or for their artistic qualities—or both.

In his 1995 essay about the modern age of photojournalism, writer Richard Lacayo wades into the debate surrounding artistic subjectivity and meaning:

“Photojournalists tend to stay aloof from talk about camera aesthetics. There is something about dodging gunfire in Beirut that discourages ruminations on style, understandably enough. More to the point, no one who catalogs bloodshed or poverty wants to be thought of as yet another vendor to the senses. Some news photographers spend half their lives chasing wars; who can blame them if they reach for the door when they hear the word art? …The stereotype survives: artists have visions; journalists have assignments. They may both think to themselves, ‘I am a camera,’ but each means something different.

“Yet aesthetic questions have a moral dimension. Color is pretty; misery is not. How does one keep the simple appeal of color from confounding the full range of meanings a photograph may convey? If pictures of genocide come to us in the muted pastels of a GAP ad or the vivid hues of a rock video, how does a photographer keep atrocity from looking palatable?”2

While the moralist in me sympathizes with this sentiment, the artist and rebel in me, raised in an age of cynicism, desensitization, and ambiguity, views adjectives like ‘palatable’ as mere subjective opinions, impossible to resolve into an absolute truth for all to agree on. Human culture is so diverse that practically anything could be considered palatable art, by someone. And so I answer Lacayo’s question with another question: “Why should the photographer keep atrocity from looking palatable?”

I want to ask this question not because I enjoy atrocity, but because I am capable of the postmodern complexity of holding multiple feelings and competing appreciations within me simultaneously. In this case, that multiplicity includes the horror and revulsion at the tragic events occurring in our world as well as the aesthetic delight at the spectacle of color, shape, line, emotion, symbolism, and meaning on vivid display, emerging somewhat accidentally (and perhaps with more purity) through the photojournalistic medium.

As if to concede this very point I’m making and pay homage to the “What is art?” debate, the author goes on to admit, “The most capable photojournalists…have learned to incorporate the unruliness of color into a deliberate statement. …Barbaric rule can operate in the broadest daylight, suffering can happen in sensual settings, a place can be cruel and inviting at the same time.”

And so we see that through the inescapable conduit of subjectivity, passive observation becomes intentional communication, and thus, photojournalism can also be the highest of art forms, loaded with inspiration for artists working in any medium. I’ve always appreciated the best journalistic photography for this transcendent ability, the point at which the happenings of this world become awe-inspiring images, and the deepest truths contained in the human condition are put on poetic display.

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Various newspaper and magazine clippings I’ve save over the years for reference and inspiration.

So once and for all, “What is art?” This question may never be fully answered. But with an integral approach and an open mind, artists and viewers alike can use this line of inquiry to enrich their experience of reality, to deepen the communication that is the purpose of all art, and to find beauty everywhere, even where it may be unintended.

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Another powerful, poetic image (sorry I couldn’t find the photographer or image credit online for this one either).

1The Situationists of the 1960s took this evolution to the extreme, espousing radical anarchist views on art that embraced destruction and merciless re-appropriation of all imagery, in the service of transforming society and conscious reality into a powerful and playful dialogue with the present moment.

2Lacayo, Richard. “IV: Resurgence 1980-1995.” Eyewitness: 150 Years of Photojournalism. New York CIty: Time, 1995. 166. Print.


ARTIST PROFILE: KIRIAKOS, SAKE TATTOO CREW

By Marisa Kakoulas

www.needlesandsins.com

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In Athens, Greece, the Sake Tattoo Crew is an incubator for top tattoo talent — not just respected in the country, but worldwide. One artist from this collective is Kiriakos Balaskas. Tattooing for 8 years after a tough apprenticeship with Sake, Kiriakos developed a style combining abstract expressionism watercolors and graphic art. But I wanted to learn from him how he views his work, and tattoo culture as a whole, so I took him away from organizing the Athens Tattoo Convention, which is May 23-25, for a quick Q&A. 

If forced to define your style, how would you describe it? What are the strongest influences on your work?


My tattoo style in general has always been a combination of heavy themes/ lines/ shapes, and naive — almost childish — color details. I’ve always found this invasion of joy into strictness (two sides that equally attract me) very interesting and exciting. As soon as I started experimenting with the watercolor technique, I felt I had finally found the absolute way of expressing this ultimate combination. My pieces mainly include these distinctive elements: a black graphic stencil or sketch, and either a brush or wide, “clean,” kid-style watercolors — usually two colors only. It is hard for me to define it in a sole, strict term as there is no one else in Greece who practises this style, but if forced to define it, I’d use the term my costumers use when they ask for it, “Kiddo.”

Some old school artists believe that “only bold will hold,” and that every tattoo needs a heavy outline to stay strong longer. What is your response to this? 

I agree and I myself use total black outlines in the stencil/sketch part. But as far as the watercolors outline is concerned, I feel the lines should create an ephemeral impression — if you take the loose element out of the watercolor, the very substance of it is gone. 

Because you are doing something new and innovative with your work, what kind of reactions do you get to it?

The reactions are positive, if not overwhelming. People are interested in trying this new technique or inflowing the style into their tattoos, and their eagerness to experiment with unconventional styles sincerely moves me.

What are some of the greatest lessons you learned in tattooing?

I’ve learned the greatest lessons and values of tattooing from the person who initiated me to this art, Sake. It was a tough apprenticeship by his side that I had to go through in order to become a respected tattoo artist, and one of the greatest lessons he gave me was to pay this respect back to the customers. They will have that piece on them forever, and that is something we always have to keep in mind. 

What do you think makes a good tattoo — and what do you think makes a good tattoo artist?

A good tattoo is a tattoo that remains the same over the years, as if it was only done two weeks ago. I consider good artists to be the artists who won’t rest or let themselves go as far as their technique, style and inspiration are concerned.

How have you seen tattoo culture in Greece evolve? How has mainstream culture in Greece adapted to the art’s popularity?

**To read the full article, go to: http://www.needlesandsins.com/2014/05/artist-profile-kiriakos-sake-tattoo-crew.html

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colettesaintyves: untitled on Flickr.

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colettesaintyves: untitled on Flickr.

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untitled on Flickr.


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*New* Photos Added To The Gallery

Tattoos by Olaf Lobe

www.truelovetattoo.de

True Love Tattoo

Düsseldorf, Germany

Instagram: @olaftruelove

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Confessions of a Tattoo Artist: Part 3


Mike Moses: Facing the onslaught of the digital age

Source: www.tattoosnob.com

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Guest post by Mike Moses (On Instagram: @thedrowntown)

Those of us with at least a decade in the tattoo industry remember a world quite different from today. As for the old-timers… hell, they probably don’t recognize their own shops anymore. The nervous laughter and palpable fear of those yet to be tattooed is gone. Instead, quiet cadres glued to the 5600K light of a handheld revolution occupy our waiting rooms. Prospective clients gain reassurance that the process ahead is “no big deal” from an ever-growing web of search results.

What used to be a rite of passage for more questionable members of society (and more than a few good servicemen) is now served up hot to hoodie’d teenagers, housewives and your cousin Frank. You can’t even check out at the grocery store without a family of five cooing in unison, forcibly comparing their future projects and former mistakes to yours. I didn’t sign up for this – I just wanted some ice cream.

At some point, you have to wonder: “What the hell happened?”

Coming up in a small town, tattooers in magazines took on a heroic glow. They seemed so far away, their greatness vast and unattainable. As an apprentice, you poured over piles of moldy outdated magazines; tattooer preschool was all about taking notes of the good (and bad) aspects of others’ work. Next you began observing the guys you worked with and the dudes down the street; studying their style, approach, and remembering their names wasyour job.

In those days, even the guys a couple blocks over might as well have had miles of barbed wire around them. The only way to gain access was a chance meeting in a bar; perhaps you’d get lucky and someone would introduce you. To get a glimpse of their sticker smudged and road-worn portfolio meant manning up and walking into their shop, a frightening endeavor indeed. Understanding the industry relied on the realization that you owed other tattooers everything, simply for carving the path ahead of you.

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Back then tattooing was still massively unappreciated by the mainstream. It was a remote career, a venture regarded by all but the most subversive as a “bad move” – to pursue this was professional suicide. No one in their right mind would encourage you, and threats from disapproving parents hung in your head like nooses. But for all the nooses they tied and the gallows erected, nothing held the same allure as old timers’ stories: neon in the windows, shitty pool table out front; the hum and buzz off in the dark distance, the unknown.
(more…)


Confessions of a Tattoo Artist: Part 2


*New* Photos Added To The Gallery

Tattoos by James Mullin.

Lotus Tattoo

www.jamesmullintattoos.com

Hemet, CA

IG: @jamesmullintattoos @lotustattoohemet

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Rotary vs Coil Machines: Joe Swanson with Clinton Crider


Nil Marques Guest Spot

Hi there, sorry for the long blogging break, but i was in Japan for a while, so obviously i didn’t have a lot of shop stuff to post…
I did however take lots of pictures for my own blog and you’re very welcome to check them out, but be warned, they’re not very tattoo related at all!

Anyway, enough about me, here are some news that might interest you!
We have yet another guest on the way, and like the last one, it’s only a quick two day guest spot, so appointments are very limited.

Nil Marques from Spain is gonna be with us on May 13th and 14th, and if you’d like to book with him, hurry up and send an email with your ideas to conspiracyinctattoo@gmail.com.
Check out his work below and get in touch!