Saturday, 2 March 2013

The man with the Winnie The Pooh Tatoo.

Had a great night out recently.It was a pal's fortieth birthday.Joseph the tatooist. We had a suprise birthday party at an after hours session when the Hungarian liquers flowed whilst the night flew the way only the truly good ones can.Was very taken with his studio.The way you are when you see an artists workplace. The place where the alchemy occurs. The walls are decorated with examples of past work. Examples of his own and others artwork. Inspirational pieces that stir the mind and for me quicken the blood flow. Artistic visions that bleed over into the workshop onto the skin of the customers becoming indelibly inked and linked.Existing in this world only as long as the person who got them done does. Everone who was there  had work of some description done. Some beautifully crafted inking from the four corners of the world. Some subtle some not. Flowing down necks,torsos, arms legs. Bursts of colour like ink dropped in a flowing stream. Formalised masculine oriental sleeves to medieval vinework creeping about the thin forearm of a young lady. I stare too much I know I do but it is hard not to when art is everywhere. I asked this lovely spanish lady why she kept passing on the offered shots and she sighed in a most worldly fashion and told me she knew what they would do. And she was quite right too. I woke up in my garden with a winter wreath of dead leaves in my hair and a stabbing pain in my chest. Quite literally. My mortice key was sticking me in the chest through my shirt pocket.
                    Joseph is a magic inker. A real artisan.I have seen all manner of tatoo work over the years. From homemade indian ink jobs to the most exqusitely rendered body sleeves. I have some work done in different places with different degrees of skill but none that I regret. There are studious everywhere now and people from all walks of life getting themselves inked. I have seen some wonderful examples and want to see more.  Was recently wowed by an upper body sleeve based on a specific series of manga characters. Also an intricately scaled gecko lizard perched on a slim ladies upper back bone, skillfully framed and highlighted against the milky paleness of her skin.Not every one is done for the eyes of others. Not so long ago I watched a squaddie straddle a chair and silently and stoically endure a heavy gothic script inking of a fallen friends name etched between the most perfectly proportioned shoulders I have ever seen. As though someone had written their name on the back of Michealangelos David. A memorial to a friend that will last as long as he does.He had a wound. A jagged rip in his flesh that speaks as a reminder of the terrifying randomness of violence.A scar he will always bear.The deepest wound he marks with a design by choice. It takes a degree of trust to place your skin in the hands of someone who will mark it forever. Try as best you can not to misplace that trust.
                    There is a sensual impermanence to all this work. Human life is so fragile in some ways and so ferociously determined in others. We build and make things we hope will last forever but we know they never will. Ink in skin, painfully rendered. Celebrating mortality, the breathing canvas, its a wonderful thing. 
                     Just watched the american version of the Girl With The Dragon Tatoo. Thought it was well cast and beautifully made. Some of the best opening credit sequences I have seen in years.Like a big scary hand reaching out of the screen and slapping you about the head. Its not a still for still remake of the original movie based on Stieg Larsons book. It departs from the original in a way that attempts to serve the american version. Its still similar though. Perhaps in the way an icepop is similar to an icicle. I like the Lisbeth Salander character. As a fictional character I mean. In real life I would not want to be in the same room as her.She is not an immediately likeable or sympathetic character. Nor does she look for these responses in others. She is not some needy self obsessed modern heroine who talks like she has a permanent head cold and whos every utterance sounds like a question directed at herself. Lisbeth is a ballsy survivor in a very hard cruel world who understands that world and which buttons on a keyboard to press to keep it at bay. Nomi Rapace embodies all the complexites of Lisbeth's character. Managing to hold it all together. Even transmitting that world back to us in a steady eye-ball gaze that borders on blackly reptillian.
                       Lisbeth Salander should have been an iconic character for our time. Off late her likeness has been hijacked by all manner of PR and advertising corporate vision makers. People who serve to turn all  aspects of rebellion into commerce. She has been converted into a sillohuete and projected onto the mainstream and used to sell backpacks,designer hoodies and footwear, Ipads and smartphones adnaseum. Its a cosy subversion. In this version of the matrix there are spoons everywhere and they are mostly urban hipsters. This type of cultural desperation is not new. Read Oscar Wildes Sphinx Without A Secret. A short story from a previous century. The reading will yield insight into a phenomenon most consider modern which is anything but. The desperate need to remain thoroughly modern is really just a need to remain thoroughly distracted. A cushion to the blows of everyday life. Everone needs a cushion now and then but we should not get confused by the cushions function.
                       One man who never gets confused by the function of a cushion is my friend Big John Little. I mention him because he has the most amazing tatoo on his back. It is of Eeyore the Donkey from the Winnie The Pooh stories by AA Milne. Its actually based on one of the illustrations by the artist EH Shepard and is quite stunning to look at. Big John says he got it done because all his life he has asked the same questions Eeyore has. WHY? and sometimes WHYFORE? and sometimes even INASMUCH AS WHICH.? I think it is also because he has spent much of his life chasing his own tail.
                         And when all is said and done who has not.