Rodrigo Melo is an excellent tattooist who specializes in the traditional Japanese style and makes wonderful paintings of some of Irezumi's most outstanding figures as well. His work, with it's dark backgrounds and brightly colored imagery, has a powerful atmosphere to it regardless of what medium it takes. All of his pieces are incredibly dramatic, featuring yurei and mythological creatures with exaggerated facial expressions that capture an emotion or feeling. Enjoy this selection of his astounding paintings of Japanese iconography on paper and wood.
Between his tattoos and paintings, Melo has illustrated most of the major icons from the Japanese tradition. Here, however, there are examples of some of his deep cuts, because it seemed fitting, given that many of them are literally rendered of cuts of wood. He's even illustrated creatures as obscure as baku, the elephantine monstrosity below.
The way Melo is able to imbue his paintings with such emotional energy is remarkable. For instance, his depiction of Buddha seems to radiate harmony, while his namakubi's (severed head) execution is ghastly as death itself. The merriment embodied by his depiction of Okame and Hyotokko could bring a smile to anybody's face, but honestly, his Tengu paintings are the best. He's done a number of these mischievous harbingers of destruction and doom, and what's most interesting is that he's even created a few with beaks instead of the common long noses, harking back to when these red kami were more closely linked to birds of prey.
It's particularly intriguing that Melo paints many of these Japanese figures on discs of wood, because of the material's importance in the history of the art form. Much of what we now see in contemporary Irezumi originates from imagery on woodblock prints from the ukiyo-e genre that arose during the 17th century. Though the manner in which he creates these awesome paintings is very different from the way these prints were created, the fact that they both employ timber in their construction generates a fascinating sense of self-awareness in his work.
If you'd like to see more of his Japanese paintings as well as his superb Irezumi, make sure to drop by his Instagram. If you want some of his astounding body art, he lives and tattoos in Brooklyn, NY and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for consultations.