A highlight in the calendars of industry heavyweights and fans alike, this year’s instalment of the Australian Tattoo Expo in Sydney was colourful, thrilling and generated good vibes all around. Though the focus for organisers is generally on the artists, there was still things for the public to enjoy and explore – from massive booths hosting some of the best artists both locally and internationally, to the assortment of retail stands and the unique entertainment, the Expo was a great opportunity to catch artists at work, get inspired for your next piece and was a chance to meet likeminded people.
It’s a given there was a menagerie of all things tattoo but what wasn’t expected was the outlandish entertainment provided for visitors to break up the day’s exploring. Straight over from the U.K. for their debut Australian appearance, The Fuel Girls dazzled visitors with a sexy spin on pyro acrobatics, burlesque gymnastics and some mildly X-rated cosplay. Certainly the most gripping of shows to happen on the main stage, they swung, spun and flat out won over each member of their audience with an impressive set of skills.
Forget plain white tables with just a banner draped behind them, the booths each attending artist or studio set up were each as unique displays of flair and personality, every stroll of a few metres, a new and interesting visual experience. There was nothing bland about how visiting artists presented themselves – Mr. Heggie came from Brighton, England, complete with bowl hat and a monochrome display of art quintessentially English, and Fajar Prasetya of Prime Ink Tattoo, Indonesia had an impressive collection of oriental flash on display, working with impressive speed on clients throughout the day.
The downside to the Expo for the regular Joe is there’s not a whole lot on offer for the twelve or so hours the event runs each day, unless you’re on the prowl for an artist for your next tattoo, or even looking to get work done at the Expo - and that’s exactly what your humble reviewer did.
Melbourne’s own Mike Van, in a prime position at the venue’s entrance and surrounded by his wonderfully friendly team, was keen to provide a walk-up session after I fell in love with his sensational display of watercolour style art. From skulls to women, lettering to flower, all Mike’s work had that wonderfully blended effect, colours melting in to one another in striking form. “But he didn’t stay between the lines!” my mother complained later – but that was entirely the point. My finished piece, a beautiful heart on my forearm, has black lines as imperfect as the wearer, the brightest shade of red washing across the shape, blotches of colour punctuating the perimeters of the piece. And I absolutely love it. The strong but silent type, Mike says everything through his work – “the missus does the chinwagging,” he joked with me.
Experiences with artists like Mike are what makes the Australian Tattoo Expo great – you may wander in to that hall only looking to check out what’s hot on the scene, you may walk in with no expectations at all but one thing is for certain, expectations or no – you will leave having had a great experience, making new friends and discovering new things. And if you’re anything like me, you’re going to leave with new ink!
ARTIST GALLERY - PART 1
ARTIST GALLERY - PART 2