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September 29, 2016

Tattoo Aotearoa New Zealand

by prophecy / How to Tattoo / 0 Comments

I have been actively researching tattoo culture in New Zealand for over a decade with a shifting focus on various aspects of the tattoo community. My research began with an initial investigation of women and tattoo in New Zealand resulting in a Master of Fine Art thesis and 2007 exhibition Emotionally Loaded: An Investigation into Tattooing and Identity in a Female Pakeha Context, at Massey University’s Vent Gallery.

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted a tattoo. I first encountered tattoos as an adolescent and even then, I was attracted by their indelibility and the stories that they conveyed. After acquiring my own tattoo I became increasingly interested in the culture and motivations that mobilized others and myself to invest in commissioned artworks on the body.

This interest in tattoo inspired me to broaden the focus of my investigation and after contacting tattooists in the Auckland region, I went there to photograph and record stories about their subjects and why they chose their tattoos. This work resulted in the exhibition Show Me Your Tattoo, in conjunction with the 2009 Auckland Tattoo Convention and later Portraits of Ink, exhibited at Wellington’s Photospace Gallery in 2012. It also represented the beginning of an expanded focus on tattoo culture and related topics brought to the foreground by the narratives of tattoo subjects.

In a related project, Shifting Identity: The Evolution of a New Tattoo Culture in Hong Kong, parallels were drawn between tattooing in different cultural contexts that illustrated a transition of tattooing from subculture to popular culture and how the service provided by tattooists is evolving from reproducing tattoo flash to creating commissioned artworks. This became the impetus for a new body of work that profiled tattoo subjects in the Wellington region and unraveled some of the ideas around augmenting identity, appropriating cultural symbols, marking life changing events and employing tattoo as a social passport resulting in the exhibition Tattoo Collectors, at Wellington’s Photospace Gallery in 2013.

In my current project Tattoo Aotearoa New Zealand, I will be exhibiting a substantial body of tattoo research and photographic documentation on contemporary New Zealand tattoo practice that draws on previous research as well as new work that is currently in production. This involves completing a national survey of tattoo by including the work of regional tattoo artists. The intention of this approach is to document and provide a perspective on how tattooing in Aotearoa New Zealand spans a diverse range of social, cultural and ethnographic mores. This new work will be exhibited at Auckland’s James Wallace Pah Homestead from October to December 2015.

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