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London gallery to examine and celebrate the culture of tattoo artLatest News ->

Wed 16 Feb, 2011.

London Miles Gallery will on 25 February open an exhibition not normally associated with the white-wall-and-plinth set, but then London Miles is not your garden-variety gallery that likes to take a “holier-than-thou” approach to art.

The exhibition in question is Pens and Needles, which will be a group exhibition celebrating and taking an in-depth look at all forms of tattoo art, lifestyle and culture. And it will be done with panache, which, apparently, is something for which the gallery is becoming known as it presents exhibitions of surrealist, pop, lowbrow, comic book and illustration art to a growing British following of discerning enthusiasts of these genres. London Miles Gallery’s mission, however, extends to “exhibiting, nurturing, and unearthing artists”.

Pens and Needles is, according to the gallery’s publicity, “the first UK art exhibition of its kind”, and aims to highlight the intersection of fine art and modern tattooing. In their words:

Much of today’s contemporary and fine art isn’t too disparate from that which tattoo artists are creating on skin. Much like their painterly peers, the most accomplished and skilled of tattoo artists assign the same exacting precision to composition, tone, perspective, and conceptual design when producing their own inimitable works of art.

Doesn’t this then make tattooed individuals the new cultural ambassadors of a truly new and distinctive “modern art”?

The above may be true; however (for example), tattooing has been a highly refined and very distinctive art form in Japan for centuries, if stigmatised for much of that time as a sign of criminality, indeed, as has been the case in the Western world to a large extent. Fortunately – although it would require special permission and a visit to Japan – a history of this art is kept by the medical museum of Tokyo University in the form of human skins preserved as masterpieces of Japanese tattoo art; around thirty of the skins are usually on display (see, for example, the article by journalist Ben Hills, “Pigment of the imagination”).

Japanese tattoo art, of course, has been one of the inspirations for many modern Western tattoo artists, as has the Polynesian, Maori, African and Celtic tribal tattooing traditions – and as has the art of modern Western movements such as cubism, expressionism and surrealism, as well as comic art. Pens and Needles aims to pay broad tribute to the entire culture surrounding tattooing. We at SomethingDark regard this as a goal that will be as difficult to achieve as it is noble, and we are looking forward to viewing the result.

There was another paragraph of London Miles’ press material that caught our eye, and it did so because of what is essentially an economic statement:

As the reputation, artistic integrity, and celebrity of many tattoo artists continues to grow however, so does the desirability of the unique artworks they create. Excitingly, this development has birthed an entirely new and dynamic art market – one formed by a generation of art enthusiasts drawn specifically to the affordability of these original artworks in comparison to the high prices of those in other spheres of the contemporary art market.

So we look forward to learning more.

Artists confirmed for Pens and Needles are: Shawn Barber, Claudia Sabe, Mike Davis, Matt Difa, Xam, Olli Bery, Daniel Albrigo, Holy Fox, Jeff Gogue, Tom Bagshaw, Alex Young, Shad, Jondix, Jee Sayalero, Gustavo Rimada, Cate Rangle, Estevan Oriol, Lea Nahon, Bart Bingham, Rico, Horishion, Issac Fainkujen, Nick Baxter, Nick Colella, Alex Binnie, Al Overdrive, Nicola Andrews, Michael Forbes, Kerry Evans, William Zdan, and Adam Jackson.

The exhibition’s opening reception will be Friday 25 February, 19:00 to 23:00, and will feature live tattooing in the gallery’s own pop-up tattoo parlour. For full exhibition and gallery details, visit the London Miles Gallery website.

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