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Art on a human canvas a matter of trust

Art Gallery exhibit highlights a unique and growing art form
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By Timothy Collins

An exhibit that explores tattooing as a source of bodily autonomy and a practice that requires a sense of trust between tattoo artist and tattoo receiver is coming to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Tender Touch, running from Nov. 25 to May 5, 2024, will feature works from Victoria’s ever-expanding tattoo community. In recent years, one aspect of that expansion has included the involvement of queer and BIPOC artists in the trade.

“I think it (the exhibition) is important because all the artists are from Victoria and, while it’s a small selection of the great tattoo culture in the city, it’s important to talk about the ideas and the different perspectives that this culture expresses,” said Mel Granley, the curator of the exhibit.

The exhibition has invited several contemporary tattoo artists in Victoria to showcase their work in an effort to explain the artistic aspect of tattooing.

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“It’s an art form that is truly an intimate experience as the canvas upon which the artist is creating is a living body. There’s an incredible amount of trust required and it’s so important that the person getting the tattoo feels safe and comfortable,” said Granley.

“As an example, for me, as an Indigenous woman, I feel more comfortable with a woman or an Indigenous person doing my tattoo.”

Granley explained that gender, sexuality, race identity and cultural background all contribute, not only to the content of the art selected for any given tattoo but to the execution of that art on the subject.

Something else that sets tattoo art apart from other art forms is that, while the artist has a chance to express themselves in the execution of the selected tattoo, it is always a collaboration between the artist and the “human canvas” receiving the tattoo.

“And then there’s the added factor for tattoo artists that’s unique to this art form. When the artist is finished, their art gets up and walks out the door and the artist may never see that art again,” said Granley.

The opening day of the exhibition (Nov. 25) will kick off with some live tattooing with some of the artists creating tattoo art right at the Gallery.

Tender Touch will feature the art of Simran Dhaliwal, Mason Larose, Kaman Lu, Mina Malahah Raposo, Geri Kramer, and Grae Salisbury. For more information, visit aggv.ca.

READ MORE: Nick McMaster combines his passions for tattoos and art at Cinder and Sea