Friday, May 30, 2008



Jarret Clarkson, Andres Merrill, Craig Fenrick

Curatorial Statement

Tattoo: A picture or design made on someone’s body by pricking small holes in the skin and filling them with indelible dye. [1]

While seemingly a modern phenomenon, tattooing or permanent skin-marking has been practiced globally throughout history, representing many things: an expression of one’s cultural or spiritual beliefs, a rite of passage, or simply a decoration to enhance or change the appearance. Tattoos can simultaneously create belonging and differentiation. The tattoo collector uses them as visual communication, both inwardly and outwardly to his or her peers and the general public. Tattoos range from the hidden piece of artwork for private viewing and reflection, to the flaunted accessory that will be on display for the collector’s lifetime. They are literal, tangible markers of time on the body. While any permanent change to the body will forever carry personal connections, changes such as scars are markers of chance. Tattoos are different as they are intentional; a choice to engage oneself in a ritualized act of pain, the ultimate outcome indicating the ownership one has over their own body and the freedom one has to make changes to it. Whether a symbol of strength, cultural insignia or simple physical indicator, they can help us remember and hold on while they propel us to change and transform. Tattoos literally breathe life.

For the tattoo artist, skin is a canvas, a living, challenging surface that bears the marks of identity, symbology and culture.[2] Although it is the skill and creativity of the tattoo artists that brings the tattoo to life, the creation of a tattoo requires the input of the collector, who also acts as the canvas and venue. While many other art forms are relegated to static locations such as the art gallery, home or outdoor venue, tattoos are living artworks, which literally get up and walk away with the collector. The artist must instantly detach himself from his creation, knowing that he may never see his piece of art work again, and if he does, nothing is off limits; the collector can change, add and remove the artwork at any point. This is the very nature of the tattoo - the artwork ultimately belongs to the collector and while tattoo designs and tattoo inspired artwork are important pieces alone, they are not realized as a tattoo until they are inscribed into the skin and have become part of an individual. Tattoos are people.

The exhibition Tattoo explores a variety of genres, featuring art by three of Canada’s leading tattoo artists Jarret Clarkson, Andres Merrill and Craig Fenrick. Jarret Clarkson’s
work reflects traditional Japanese style and subject matter[3], Andres Merrill is working in Old School style (traditional Americana)[4] and Craig Fenrick bases his work on realism[5] and fine line while incorporating his own personal vision.

Tattoo aims at showing the process in which a piece of artwork jumps from the page or canvas of the artist to a permanent living art piece. In recent years tattoos have been at the forefront of popular culture and thus have evolved from the simple tattoo parlour flash to intricate, custom fine art. With this in mind, Tattoo captivates and educates the audience whereby the exhibit reveals the artistic processes of today's custom body ink. Through working drawings, stencils, photographs of tattoos and tattoo inspired artworks, the audience is able to view and appreciate the step-by-step development by which this ancient yet progressive medium moves from an idea into ink.

Nikole Peters, Curator

Tattoo by Jarret Clarkson-

[1] The Free Dictionary by Farlex,, May 26, 2008

[2] Jennifer McRorie, “Writings on the Skin”, A Body of Work (MFA Thesis, University of Canterbury, 2007), 21-30.

[3] The design influences for Japanese tattooing come from the realm of the temple wood block print. The Japanese tattoo aesthetic differs from the Western in that designs are larger in scale, covering major areas of the body with more cohesive designs related with background shading and imagery.
BellaOnline,, May 28, 2008

[4] In tattooing the term refers to the style of tattoos that developed from the classic sailor, military and carnival tattoos of the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is characterized by bold lines and maritime themes, as well as pinup girls and classics like the heart pierced by a dagger. The most famous of Old School tattooers is probably Sailor Jerry. This style is sometimes called "classic" or "Americana".
Wikipedia,, May 27, 2008

[5] Loosely synonymous with "figuration", "representational art" and "illusionistic painting", realism is the term applied to a contemporary style of art depicting recognizable objects or people. While Realism has specific philosophical, art historical & literary roots in earlier centuries, in the 20th century this art term broadened in usage. By the second half of the century, realism (small r) came to be the accepted art term for differentiating representational works from abstract or conceptual ones.
Biddington’s,, May 28, 2008

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