Art & Design
Posted by Dan Kuseta
13. Jul, 2011
When you first step into No Vacancy for Blokk’s latest solo exhibition you would be forgiven for thinking you’ve stepped in to a time capsule.
The space has been transformed into a homage to a bygone era, drawing on the masculine imagery of 1940’s tattoo culture. Every surface is covered in oversized paintings that draw on a lexicon of classic imagery from the era. Anchors, swallows and buxom babes abound, creating a riotous visual discord. The pieces themselves are painted on wood and cut to shape, then treated with a four-step varnishing process that alludes to aged paper and tobacco stained fingers.
These images are drawn from the legacy of sailor tattoos, of hard drinking men who worked at sea. Or at least a romantacised notion of them that popular culture has encoded in these symbols. The exhibition is a testament to pre-digital craft, when a reliance on line was paramount. The colour palette used in the pieces is largely refined to a simple combination of strong reds, blues, and yellows, allowing the bold black outlines to breathe across the gallery space. Scale plays an important role in Blokk’s work, and it’s an unusual experience to see tattoo imagery at life size. The overall sense is a visual cacophony in that the eye doesn’t know where to rest, but for the purposes of the exhibition that’s clearly the intention.
When tattoos are generally assumed to have such personal histories and narratives it’s easy to overlook the significance of the imagery itself. Blokk has put the shine back on the foundation of the practice, celebrating a tradition that is both rich and varied, and in doing so he’s invoked a sense of nostalgia for an age that the majority of his audience will never have experienced.
Blokk’s exhibition opens tonight, Thursday 14th from 6pm and runs until July 24
No Vacancy Gallery
34-40 Jane Bell Lane, Melbourne (enter from Russell St)
Check www.no-vacancy.com.au for more details.
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