Tattoo artists anything but straightlaced


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Tattoos -- once part of an underground culture -- now have sunk their ink into the flesh of a good percentage of the general public.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/04/2009 (5037 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Tattoos — once part of an underground culture — now have sunk their ink into the flesh of a good percentage of the general public.

It is a recognized art form in many cultures across the world, as well as being an integral part of eclectic musical subcultures. However, while many artists are influenced by the tattoo style and method, tattoos are not something that one often comes across in a gallery setting on their own.

Thus, it only makes sense that the Graffiti Gallery — a gallery known for pushing the limits of street subculture onto the walls of the space — would have a show that incorporated tattoos in an interesting way. Just for Kicks is a colourful exhibition of shoes (primarily Vans Slip Ons) designed and decorated by tattoo artists from across Canada.

MICHAEL CHRISTIANSON photos /WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Canadian tattoo artists turn their skills from skin to canvas.

Viewers will no doubt find themselves lusting after some of the footwear in the exhibition. Luckily, many of the pairs are for sale, both at the show and on the website (however I did see many red “SOLD” dots on the shoes when I visited — so act fast!)

Dozens of pairs are hung on the walls and stylishly resting on pedestals around the gallery. The show is evidence of the vibrant variety of tattoo styles. Intricate fine lines wrap around bursts of jungle colours on one pair, while another is bold in black-and-white shaded portraits. Monsters, flowers, and all sorts of fantasy worlds make up the designs on the shoes. High stiletto heels also stand out, with simple monochromatic snakes hissing the words “poison” around the shoe.

Winnipeg tattoo artist Kurt Wiscomb from Tattoos for the Individual is a practising visual artist beyond his skin-art business. His pair is much like his Gothic style of art, with dark wispy details curling around softly shaded skulls. This darker style is seen throughout the show, yet the vivid colours of artists like Teika Hudson of Bushido in Calgary pop out from the darkness. Hudson’s Japanese-inspired creation — an eerie brain-eating goddess — is surrounded by pops of lush oceanic colours.

It’s nice to see that some of the artists went the extra distance with their shoes, creating sculptural works that meld the tattoo styles with a more gallery-conscious artistic nature. Tawd and Donovan Murphy from Lady Luck in Langley, B.C., offer the best examples. Tawd took a high-top runner and reconstructed the shoe as a hairy, bulging-eyed, antlered creature (complete with pierced tongue) mounted like a deer head on a skateboard. A more organic feel came from Murphy, who worked within a brown palette to incorporate twine and wood around the shoes mounted on a plank of wood.

In the corner of the main space, Rob Jobe from Pinz Tattoo in Salmon Arm, B.C., created a mini-shrine to the art form in the style of the Mexican Day of the Dead. Brightly coloured his-and-hers skulls sit atop each toe area, while flowers and clusters of used white candles are set inside the opening of the shoe — and one has to look closer to realize that the base of the piece is actually a shoe.

Despite how you may feel about getting tattoos yourself, the show is a very cool visual experience in an aspect of urban culture. If you’re like me, you may leave the show not only digging around in your pocket for money to purchase a few pairs, but also scribbling down the name of an artist whose work you would like to have permanently etched on you.

To view the shoes for sale, visit the gallery or the website at

MICHAEL CHRISTIANSON/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS The Just For Kicks exhibit is on now at the Graffiti Gallery. The exhibit features tattoo artists from across the country and runs until April 30. Story Stacey Abramson April 20 2009.


Just for Kicks

Various artists

Graffiti Gallery, 109 Higgins Ave.

To April 30

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