‘Welcome to my life, tattoo/We’ve a long time together’ wrote Pete Townshend in the late 60’s, a latter line from The Who song ‘Tattoo’. The lyric titles Willem Jaspert and Raphael Hirsch’s fashion shoot for Clash issue 94, a 12-page black and white editorial of (primarily) men and their tattoos; album covers, song lyrics, Johnny Cash’s face.
An era defining piece of art (nothing says ‘I was 20 in the late 90’s’ like a small rose on one’s ankle – large rose on the inner arm for current day twentysomethings), tattoos have long been a source of cultural comment.
This summer Somerset House adds another chapter to the ever-expanding story, as a new exhibition featuring 70 influential tattoo artists from around the world opens tomorrow, with nothing in the way of inked skin in sight.
Instead the likes of Ed Hardy and Horiyoshi III have put their illustrative talents to use, aided with watercolours, oil paints and Japanese silk painting, using time as the collective starting point.
“What is unprecedented about this exhibition,” says co-curator Miki Vialetto, “is that it was organised to bring together 70 people who have created and represent the significant and momentous change in tattooing, in such an important and internationally famous arts and culture venue.”
That it’s free for all and runs for three months isn’t to be sniffed at either.