TATTOO & THE ART OF INK @ Gallery Munro House


A trip to the Gallery Munro House is frequently a refreshing experience. This exhibition did not disappoint. Tattoo & The Art of Inkshowcases a diverse range of artworks by tattoo artists from around the region. The show, which runs from 05/05/14 until the 04/06/14, represents a series ofsuccessful ‘quick fire’ exhibitions that appear to be designed to attract a public that is becoming increasingly interested in the arts around the city.

The show kicks-off with a number of eye-catching giclee prints by photographer Paul Nathan. These black and white stills seem to accentuate the vibrancy of the tattoos within them. The subjects, all young professionals from Brooklyn, USA, are representative of a youth culture that embraces the body as a canvas for expression of their art.


Credit: Gallery Guy, [digital photograph] (private collection) 08/05/14

Credit: Gallery Guy, [digital photograph] (private collection) 08/05/14

As I scan the gallery space, it becomes apparent that the art really does reflect the clientele, and vice versa. This organisation knows its audience. The gallery merges seamlessly with a café / bar style ambience. The art walks the line, with its alternative yet professional edge, and never looks out of place with it’s predominantly ‘hipster’ audience.

Walking further into the gallery space, it becomes apparent that the artists on show display a myriad of different styles and techniques. Rebecca Vincent captures an almost photo- realistic style by using a shading technique akin to pointillism and building up the image gradually and precisely. This technique transfers successfully to the giclee print without losing the sense that it is a design for a tattoo.

In contrast to Vincent, Chris Jenkinsonpossesses a playful, graphic style that almost caricatures the tradition of the tattoo. Dipping into the world of iconography and symbolism, which the majority of tattoo artists dabble in, Jenkinson is able to create a narrative with his designs. They refer to the examples that are offered to the client as they walk into the tattoo studio.

Colour is infused into the show by Chris Smith and Sarah Terry. Their collective uses of bold primary colours draw the eye. Smith creates his concepts within the form of body suits, although translated to the giclee print, a sense of the method and technique can be gained by observing the way the artist adapts his images to the contours of the body.

Sarah Terry’s Going Native print really embodies the line between graphic design and the tattoo. It wouldn’t look amiss either in an exhibition at theKemistry Gallery in London or on the skin. The colours balance the work and complement the lines. It is a heady blend of myth and contemporary design.

Interestingly, as I was enjoying the work I heard someone say that ‘it would have been cool if they had put a performance piece in with actual tattoos on people’. I thought to myself at that moment that this comment was redundant; it would have been too much for the space and would then detract from the designs themselves. Then I thought, well looking around, many of the artists are here in person, they have tattoos on them like many of the visitors. This superimposes a second layer to the exhibition in which the audience become part of the exhibit.

All the artists in this show complement each other, their talent is obvious and their art form is able to translate itself well to the gallery space. This is ‘hats off’ to the curators of the exhibition for balancing the compositional elements and allowing the art of the tattoo to take centre stage.

This exhibition appears to really draw parallels between what is happening in Brooklyn which is highlighted in Nathan’s photography and the state of the emerging culture conscious, ‘art crowd’ within Leeds.  The Gallery Munro House appears to have hit upon a pulse within the city that may be a sign of an emerging zeitgeist.

John Wright

Filed under: Art & Photography