In honor of my Rebecca bravely putting in another 5 hours on her Japanese leg piece (and still more to go!) I thought I would post about another master of the tattoo world: Genko. For a Japanese artist, there is a wealth of coverage of him in the west and when you see his work you will understand why. His tattoos seems to befit the man himself, very bold, colorful and most importantly with a style all their own, in this case, the kind of style that you only have to glance at to recognise its creator. He tattoos out of a relatively small studio in Nagoya as the sole artist, although he does apparently have assistants to help with the shading, but he is often to be found at conventions around the world – so if you have the chance, do take the opportunity to see him work first hand.
He is probably most famous for his iconic Shojo-style manga portraits, and to my mind he is pretty much the only artist to have ever pulled off manga tattoos with any degree of success. Elsewhere he has some good new school takes on classic Japanese tattoo work. Here he plays with proportion in the very scripted realm of traditional tattooing, but in such a way that he adds even more movement to the subject – exaggerating one of the best features of the old style. I am even a big fan of his tribal work (there is something you will not hear me say often!), I think it is because he does not deal in clichéd palm sized pieces, but huge simple expanses of black work that replace detail with impact.
Apart from the previosly mentioned experimentation with proportion and perspective, his second trademark style is the strength of his colours. Lots of ink, lots and lots of ink, I am not sure how many times he goes over each colour, but he just piles it on to unbelievably vivid results. While you have to be careful that that compliments your skin type etc etc, you cannot deny that as a technique that produces amazing tattoos. I am not sure how this kind of work will age (too early to say at this point) but I can honestly say I have never seen so clear blacks in any other tattoos, so I think he is definitely doing something right.
It is artists like Genko that raises the issue of recognisable style in a tattoo – Do you want to use your body as a canvas for the work of a famous artist, that will in turn be recognisable as their work by others? Does it somehow become a status brand amongst other fans and impossible to claim as part of your body? In Japan where traditional tattoo artists still sign their work very noticeably I guess this is not so much of a problem, but I would rather a tattoo was mine, rather than the artists. However in the case of Genko, his work is far too good for me to care!