INSET: Cover art by Tomas Tomas, IN2U Tattoo (London)
MARISA KAKOULAS‘s long-anticipated BLACK TATTOO ART 2 has just been published by Edition Reuss and this +7-pound, 448-page photographic stunner catapults readers into the contemporary world of Blackwork tattoo through the atmospheric works of 75 top tattooists from every corner of the globe.
Blackwork tattooing has been a staple of Indigenous tattoo cultures for over 7,000 years. Whether hand-tapped, hand-poked, skin-cut, or skin-stitched, this style of tattooing was originally produced with needles and natural black (and sometimes red) pigments for a variety of ritual, personal, and social reasons.
Over the millennia, Blackwork has evolved to become a contemporary art form inspired by ancient Tribal and more modern Neotribal roots. It also has come to represent other movements in tattoo art like Art Brut (“raw art”), which is characterized by uber chic noir designs birthed from authentic creative impulses.
Kakoulas investigates these ancient and emerging worlds of ink through introductory texts on Ornamental and Neotribal art work, the painstaking patterning and stippling of Dotwork designs, the abstract renderings of the Modern Art Brut Movement, and Tribal tattoo revivals occurring around the world. Traditional tattoo artist Colin Dale supplements these texts with his own, exploring the current Nordic/Celtic tattoo revival in Scandinavia and northern Europe. Over 600 photographs illuminate this hearty tome and they survey in dramatic detail each of the aforementioned genres of tattooing.
Tattoos by Nazareno Tubaro, Art Studio Tattoo (Buenos Aires)
I am very happy to see the Revivals sections receive equal footing with the rest of the book. After all, Tribal peoples invented tattooing and we would not have books like this or a vibrant tattoo culture if it were not for Indigenous achievements in the medium of Blackwork. I am also pleased to see some of my friends covered in these sections, artists that I have featured in magazine articles and also my website.
The takeaway from this book is as direct as the art itself. As Kakoulas writes: “Everything is possible, everything is allowed: black lines, dots, plains, hand-poked or tattooed by machine. And the creative scope is unlimited: gorgeous traditional Tribals, elaborated patterns and figurative designs, to the point of completely free and unconventionally tattooed layouts.” Altogether, these works convey the endless possibilities of art that can be created with tattoos, and they also ignite the visual senses in profound ways.