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Japan’s Complex Relationship with Tattoo

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Japan’s Complex Relationship with Tattoo When visiting Japanese Tattoo: Perseverance, Art, and Tradition, on view at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond, Virginia until September 27, you’re struck by the pure artistry. Photo after photo of intricate, mesmerizing designs, breathtaking colors, and symbolic imagery, one interwoven into the other, which would be difficult to render on canvas, much less flesh. There’s a passion and a reverence in these galleries that is almost palpable.  That’s why it’s almost inconceivable that Japan, which has been so instrumental in elevating tattooing to an art form, has also pushed this art form into the shadows, even condemned it for centuries. To understand the seemingly conflicted relationship that Japan has with tattooing, you must carefully unearth the deep roots of Japan’s tattoo culture, which date back to the Jomon Period (roughly 10,500 to 300 BC). That’s when the first evidence of tattooing in Japan was recovered from tombs, in the form of clay figurines with faces painted or engraved to represent tattoos. Fast forward many years later to the Edo Period (1615-1868) and Japanese authorities began using tattoos to mark criminals. According to “Japanese Tattoos: From Yakuza to Artisans, Aesthetes” in the Wall Street Journal, “…convicts were branded with penal markings such as bands on the arms, or the kanji character for ‘dog’ on the forehead.” While this criminal stigma would prove difficult to shake for many centuries, tattooing enjoyed a significant reprieve from the negative connotation at the end of the ...Read More »

Bad-Ass Geometric Tattoos and the Artists Who Create Them

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Some geometric tattoos represent ancient symbols and a oneness with nature.  They often depict an optical illusion that nothing is as it seems and that all things are continuous.  Geometric design brings together common shapes in an uncommon order.  The geometric tattoo is purely decorative, it is neither male or female and not typically associated with a life event.  They are indeed a very pure form of art.  Some people are taken in by the symmetry and beauty of the shapes, while others feel a connection to sacred symbols and history through geometrical images. The tattoo work for a powerful geometric piece is tedious and precise. It is an exercise in patience and perfection.  If one line is too heavy or to too thin it can throw off the entire piece and the visual illusion being sought fails to register in the viewer.  The gallery below showcases just a few highly talented artists with advanced technical skills in the geometric style.  This images are standouts in a sea of other tattoos. Amazing work by LewisInk in Switzerland. Lewis states he has always been passionate about geometry, shapes and space. Each piece is captivating and seams endless. DotsToLines is artwork by Chaim Machlev from Berlin, Germany.  Chaim is known for expressing his work with a seamless connection between  the laws mathematics and organic styling. Paul Davies reputation proceeds him. His designs are symetrical and fluid.  Each piece looks as if it was meant to be exactly where it is. From Japan, Kenji Alucky is a master with black ink and ...Read More »

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