As you may remember, I’m a huge fan of tattoos. The main reason why I think they’re an incredibly appealing form of art has no relation to fashion and trends, nor to the desire to show them off; on the contrary, I like them so much because they can be hidden: you know that you have them on your skin, but you can keep them covered and enjoy them as a solitary pleasure. It sounds like a contradiction, but I think it’s not. This opinion has somehow been influenced by my obsession with the Victorian Age: many aristocrats and members of the British Royal Family (Edward VII and his son, George V, for example) were tattooed, but they never showed their ink-works in public. Their respectability had to be preserved but, under their clothes, they hid a secret, which I find extremely fascinating and sensual. I’m not so radical – one of my tattos is on my leg, so of course it’s visible – but I generally consider tattoos private and personal.
I got my first tattoo in 2006; last summer I got another one (a black star on the back of my neck) and next June I’ll get the third (a couple of birds on my left arm); I’d love to get many more (another line from the Bene Gesserit litany against fear on my right leg and something inspired to Audrey Kawasaki‘s paintings) but, since last Sunday, all my dreams about tattos have been erased in front of Thomas Hooper’s works. I know I will never have the chance to get a tattoo from him, but dreaming comes cheap, doesn’t it? Thanks to a friend of mine who linked this article on my Facebook page, I discovered the dark, mystical, disquieting and fascinating style of Hooper, a British-born artist who works in New York. His complex inner world and artistic vision (he’s a painter and a photographer, too) have completely captivated me, because I’ve never seen tattos that are so peculiar and symbolical.
To some of you, this boy may look like a modern Illustrated Man, but I would spend hours admiring the drawings on his skin! The owl, the chain, the skeleton key and the locket watch are combined in such an interesting way and the result is breathless.
Talking of mystical symbols, this tattoo on the back of the neck contains many of them – the All-Seeing Eye into two equilateral triangles (this is a Christian and a Masonic symbol) and the star-shaped hexagon (the seal of Solomon is tridimensionally drawn). The misty halo surrounding the seal of Solomon is impressive and is one of Hooper’s trademarks.
I’ve never been a fan of tattoos on insteps, but I love the ones above, inspired to Indian culture; the lines in the inner part of the tattoo are written in Hindu.
Hooper must be a lover of Hindu and Buddhist traditions, because many of his works are inspired to mandalas, concentric diagrams often employed as a spiritual teaching tools. These pillars include beautiful mandalas and other references to Buddhism – the lotus, for example, that is one of the most poignant representations of Buddhist teaching.
This mandala tattoo has been drawn on the inner part between the arm and the forearm; among its decorative motifs, some poppy blossoms. As far as I know, there is not apparent relation between Buddhism and poppies, because the latter are an Ancient Greek symbol of sleep leading to oblivion (Morpheus, the God of sleep, was often portrayed with poppies in his arms).
These feet are tattooed with arrows on each toe (lovely) and double crosses. The double cross, known as Cross of Lorraine, is a widely-used symbol (it can be found in V for Vendetta by James McTeigue and in Casablanca by Michael Curtiz, for example, and it has also been used by Marilyn Manson in his art movement – and art gallery in Los Angeles – Celebritarian Corporation). I don’t know why, but this tattoo has a Mexican vibe, something which reminds me of Dìa de los Muertos. Again, the misty halos around the double crosses are impressive.
I’ve never referred to the pain element of tattoos, because I think it’s not so important, since you know that it’s going to hurt. Even if I don’t care for pain much, I’ll surely be afraid of getting a tattoo on my hand palm, because I’m sure it would hurt like hell. It’s clear many people disagree with me, because Hooper made some of his most original tattoos on hand palms.
Disquieting or interesting? This girl has a cute bow tattoo on her wrist, the letters L-O-V-E on the inner side of her fingers and a heart with a lock on the palm. The heart in all its anatomic glory is a little bit creepy, isn’t it?
This rope knot heart is gorgeous! I like it so much because it’s a an original take on the most traditional romantic symbol. The only problem is that I wouldn’t get it on my palm.
Now, before closing the post, here are my favourite tattoos by Hooper. I would describe them as true works of art on skin, the result of the artist’s amazing skills, something to treasure forever. The first one is a half-sleeve that eventually covers the shoulder, too: it’s an intricate motif of paisley-like acanthus leaves (symbol of immortality) which includes a skull.
It would be interesting to admire all the tattoos this woman has because they look gorgeous (especially the octopus on the left shoulder), even if the collar tattoo on her décolletage is breathless. I collect silver necklaces from the Middle East and this tattoo totally looks like one, but the main inspiration – I think – is again the Far East, in particular the beautiful collar ornaments of Thai dancing costumes. I’m sure it’s quite difficult to pull such a tattoo off: I must admit I’m not a fan of décolletage tattoos, but this one is pure perfection.
The last (but not least) is probably my absolute favourite, even if it’s hard to pick the best (they’re all gorgeous). I can’t quite explain why it has struck my imagination so much, maybe it’s my inner film buff talking. This film projector looks like the one Louis and Auguste Lumière invented in 1896; it projects a beam of light in the shape of a pentagonal prism and some letters – forming the word “Grace” – are inscribed in the pentagon. This tatto speaks a million words to me: it’s clearly referencing to the past, but it is also a homage to a person (I guess “Grace” refers to a person, and not generally to a virtue)…and then, again, that misty halo, which stands for the dusty beam of light of projectors. Besides the subject, what is impressive is the definition of the image, drawn up to the slightest detail.