In both Irezumi and Japanese mythology, no creature has more cultural significance than the dragon. Crez, like scores of Irezumi artists before him, has spent decades developing his take on the beast's aesthetic, building on a centuries-long lineage. In a new show at the Senaspace Art and Tattoo, Crez's dragons are on full display. His mastery over the serpentine form of these ancient and powerful figures reveals itself in his paintings; his dragons, with their many twists and turns, fearsome expressions, and divine presence on the canvas, are a sublime sight to behold.
“Dragons are a very famous subject and are connected directly with the idea of tattooing. I like drawing them because they’re very challenging — always different, always difficult, and always fun,” Crez explains. “It’s been very important to me to create my own version of dragons, because the thing with Japanese tattooing is that you inspire yourself with Japanese painters, ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock prints) artists, and all these things, but you must build your own imagery off this method of expression."
Crez’s father was a sailor who got tattoos while abroad in India. The stories his dad told, like being the sole survivor of a shipwreck, and his maritime body art inspired Crez to become a tattooist early on, doing his first hand-poked tattoos on himself at the tender age of seven. By his teens, he was tattooing professionally, even though the scene in Italy was still underground. For the first 10 years of his career, he cut his teeth doing pretty much every kind of tattoo out there, but as the industry became more saturated in the country during the ‘90s and into the 2000s, he was able to specialize in the style he’s most passionate about — Irezumi.
Crez is drawn to the traditional Japanese style because of its connection with his place of birth. He sees Venice — the city of Marco Polo as he calls it — as one of the primary gateways between the Eastern and the Western cultures. Growing up around this confluence of European and Asian art imbued him with a strong appreciation of Japanese designs and depictions of dragons in particular. Throughout Crez’s work there are vestiges of famous ukiyo-e artists like Katsushika Hokusai, but because of the expressive and pronounced qualities of his work, he cites sumi-e (black ink painting) artists such as Yosa Buson and the sculptures found at Shinto temples Nikkō Tōshō-gū as some of his biggest influences.
Through the way he shapes their spiraling bodies, three-toed talons, and whiskered snouts, one can see how Crez expounds on examples of dragons by great Japanese artists of the past to create his own unique breed. His depictions of the divine creatures embody how they’ve evolved over the centuries, adapting to new homelands and mediums to ensure that their legends live on.
To check out more of Crez’s amazing paintings and tattoos of these majestic beasts, visit his Instagram. If you’re in or around NYC, make it a point to stop by Senaspace Art and Tattoo sometime before June 25 to see his dragons and perhaps even purchase one. Should you want a traditional Japanese tattoo from him, he owns and operates out of Adrenalink in Venice, Italy and can be contacted via the shop’s website for booking. To witness him in action, watch the video of him painting a dragon at last year’s Bologna Tattoo Expo.