Thursday, 21 January 2010

Untitled: Tattoo Art Kicks Fine Arts Ass!

Cover Of Spin Magazine with Madame Winehouse tattoos by Moi Henry Hate! Photo: Terry Richardson

Painting: By Tattoo Artist Paul Booth
Artist Alexandra Spualding with sleeve done by me Henry Hate on Painting based on Russian Artist Alex Timofeev

I wish I could say I am drunk while writing this and that I have a bone to pick with those whom view what I do as insignificant. How can a tattoo artist know the difference between a Modigliani from a Rubens, to Francis Bacon? Yet, I am stone cold sober and not angry at those whom view my body of work as, well, insignificant. I can shrug my shoulders smile and simply reply with a hardy, EAT ME! Yes you read right and I typed it. For years as I have gone on my journey as a “Tattoo Artist”, been met with a varying range of intrigue, fascination, and indifference. I am met with scorn from the “Art” world, and some from strangers on the street, and even from my own mother. Whose only made me relish what I do to a greater appreciation and understanding.
The standard response about my own tattoos is, “what am I going to do when I apply for a job?’ The big finnish is followed by, “why would you put your self through so much pain and do that to yourself?” This is where I am confronted with the world at large and everyones different perceptions of what they really do not understand. So I smile and normally validate their prejudgement with some sort of juicy sordid lie or outright fabrication. Something to give them to talk about over dinner with whom ever. I let their imaginations and Japanese whispers run amok. Pretyy cool, huh? It’s fair to say that my tattoos have made a greater lasting impression without its actual intent.
Gregory Comic by MArc Hempel tatooed By Henry Hate.

People are always put off by what they actually do not understand. When Gallery Owners see some of my work I am discredited, simply because a tattoo artist can not be a fine artist. To low brow. Not enough pedigree or academia to qualify as a real artist. So I will clarify a few things that may bring those whom do not have a clue into the loop. Tattoo art has been around longer than any of the Damien Hirst’s or Andy Warhol’s ever were. Long before Leonardo Di Vinci decided to put pigment to brush and create the masterpiece’s he is renowned for. Cultures have placed ink well beneath their skin in an act of defiance, rite of passage, ritualistic anointing of one’s place in their community, to simply professing their undying love and stating their relationship status, this also goes with where their social status was on the food chain.
Tattoo By Beuna Vista Social Club

What most forget is that the canvas’s I use speak, have human emotions, and grant memories to those around them and the places that they inhabit. My canvases make music, make people laugh, even cry. Are you listening Picasso? My canvas’s span a famous neo- soul singer from Edmonton, with gravity defying hair, to the garden caretaker of a much loved London park. My art is covered up at times, displayed at the most intimate moments, to being noticed on the street by the passerby, without my canvas even realizing they are being viewed or maybe appreciated. The influences of my work span from classical artist’s Gustave Dore, Sergei Chepik, Russian Tole painting, Joan Miro, Jean Cocteau down to Jean Michelle Basquiat, Marcel Duchamp and Keith Haring. However impressive this array may be, it’s not for the novice tattoo artist to take on without
discipline, skill and a true genuine love for all art.
Tattoo By Henry Hate

If you look at Keith Harrings work it's very tribalistic. Warhol's early stuff basid on comics and graphic commercial art. Nothing wrong with that. It was a bitch slap to my face when the dean of my art school said only 3 percent would make money at their art. Great out of 87 new students, that meant one guy and one girl. The third one would have great talent and a promising career and get hit by a bus long before he/she ever got the chance to rake it in. My brain thougt this sucks and need to do something about it. Because I have been fired from the most mundane jobs to the trivial fodder that most people find themselves locked in. Working in a book shop in a museum was not on my goals list. Sorry. I once went to a business do for the local business's in the area when my studio is located, as I was invited by the organization in hopes of joining and becoming a member. In short they wanted my money and my street cred, whatever that means. Upon socializing with the suits I was greeted by the dreaded question of, "what do you do for a living?" One jerk said, "good luck with that" in the most condesending manner. i swear I wanted to rip his head off and crap in his lungs. For a moment I was looked as if I did something like flip burgers and no relevance to what he did. So I replied in kind, "What do you do other than make your boss more money than you'll ever see asshole?" Revenge is better than Christmas. He said nothing and walk away with his tail between his legs.
The term art is the ability to convey a dialogue or message using a visual platform to get a point across. Hand over heart, I do believe my work conveys that in droves. Tattoo artists are no longer perceived as a criminal element, or affiliated with undesirables. After all unlike the Young British Artists of the 90’s, tattoo artists dedicate not only their efforts, mind and free time perfecting their craft. They dedicate their bodies. For me it’s not about the money or the lifestyle that is perceived to be an attraction to many young people via reality TV. You must learn a time honored art, a skill, that can take you the world over and still find a canvas to work on. You can not be a reclusive artist and be a success as a tattooist, but we both work at our own pace. Unlike some artists whom create a body of work and hope to sell it via an agent or Gallery and loose a cut through fee’s and commissions. My work is approached by those whom ask me to do the work on them of their own free will. Commissioned. No middle man, no art agent to argue with and no Charles Saatchii waving his wallet at my work announcing it is worthy via his bank account.
My Bed By Tracey Emin aka "Jesus lady clean up your mess!"

Like that of the work of Tracey Emin, my work is a confessional to the person I am working on. I have to tell a story about them or what they want to say. Giving a small glimpse into the life of my canvas, shrouded in mystery and making them a point to have an interaction. But my main work I suppose would be based social taboos. Taboos ranging from sexual, to political and personal that run through my work, much to the chagrin of my parents. Although typically I do not work in a office, it is the office worker whom has my work. Sometimes unbeknownst to his employer. How cool is that?
Dollar Sculture Cutting By Tattoo Artist Scott Campbell

By no means am I under them impression that what I do is for everyone to fully understand. Like when I see the piece “An Oak Tree” by Michael Craig-Martin, I don’t see a riveting piece of art or a stellar masterpiece. I simply see my bathroom shelf and my toothpaste gargle glass. Tracey Emin’s “My Bed”, some alcoholic skanky broad’s unkept bed in desperate need of clean sheets and some bed wetting issues. But that is just my opinion. They’re are tattoo artists whom are turning the tide and showing works that are both beautiful and thought provoking in galleries. From New York artists Scott Campbell’s dollar pieces to Paul Booth’s macabre visuals of a darker side of the soul, Juan Puente’s Photography from around the world.
When I was a child I saw a reproduction of Michelangelo’s Leda And The Swan, at a museum my mother took me to. I was mesmerized. Each time we visited that museum I always insisted on seeing that painting, she must have heard warning signals going off in her own head. I drew on the walls like any other typical kid, when there was no paper to draw on. When there were no walls to draw on I drew on my brother. Unlike our graffiti cousins whom have a much easier time entering the gallery space, tattoo artists are still a pace behind graffiti artists. At least with tattooists we don’t go traipsing through peoples flower beds or scale tall buildings in the middle of the night to throw up a piece, without the building owner’s consent I might add. How rude. The professional tattoo artist is part confessional therapist, doctor, bartender, local clergy to the infidel and heretic, and circus carny performer and at times a sound board. We engage and interact with out subjects, immerse our selves in their world for a little while, building a trust and a common ground that stays forever.
Banksy's parody of Damien Hirst. If you ask me what I think, you seriously don't want to pull at that thread. So don't go there.

It’s not as if we are solving world peace or splitting the atom. But it’s strange that my work can start a bidding war with the tabloids and the paparazzi to get the all important first shot of the celebrity tattoo for their publication. That price out weighs my own
fee of what they paid for the tattoo in the first place, valuing it much like the Jay Jopling brokers of the art world. I could sell the image outright, but doing so would betray my clients trust in, their privacy and consideration for simply treating them as I would anyone else. So I do my work and when I have something to say I approach my tools and decide what I want to say. First and foremost I need to say something if it’s in regards to someone commissioning me to say something for them in the best of my ability, or that I have a vision and need to convey in my own words. I like that feeling, and I love what I do.
It’s a demanding career, you need a thick skin and a discipline to understand people, because they entrust us with their bodies.
Strapping Young Lad, Lambda Print By Henry Hate 2009
Fine art isn’t just limited to the gallery spaces, and to the mediums of sculpture, painting or photography, or performance. Historically it also pertained to engraving and etchings. and pretty much that is what a tattoo is. Formed in painstaking hours for the world to view with a love and a discipline that not everyone will ever really know or truly understand. I take comfort in that. Even in the exchange in the jokes and private conversations between me and my canvas. It's so much more.
Brian Clough Portrait By Henry Hate

Knowing that my body of work is here for a short while but lingers on in the memories of others through stories of brief encounters, to the declaration of unconditional love, to someone proclaiming that they have overcome something that was a painful memory and allowed me to help them with it. That my friend is an honor. Tattoo artists should be proud of the historical and cultural influence that tattooing has entrenched and presented to the world. No longer a back alley haven or even a dirty word. TAttoo Artists arn't under the harsh scrutiny of Art Critics, especially when most tattoo artists don't have assistants doing the work when they themselves should be using their hands and imagination in unison. I always think that Tattoo Art is something that has been around like the world's oldest profession and I get a kick out of that too. So in your face Snooty Suit Critic. So with that, yeah Tattoo Art can kick Fine Arts ass, and I tell you what i bet you we’ld have a better party too. Come to think of it I might have that drink now. To all my friends, I raise my glass, whom taught me how to do what I do and give me the inspiration to carry on. Now, let’s party and make it a double!

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