Occupying a bizarre yet beautiful liminal space in the world of body art, Stace “The Waterstreet Phantom” Forand’s Japanese tattoos are rooted in both tradition and the avant-garde. His compositions are a hybrid between centuries-old woodblock prints (ukiyo-e) by masters like Hokusai and imagery from more modern forms of Japanese art like manga and anime. Through his work, one can see a continuum that stretches all the way from the Edo period to the present.
Forand has been attracted to Eastern art ever since he was a child, especially images of dragons. As he grew older, this fascination spread from comics and cartoons to literature about the origins and cultural significance of these creatures that captured his imagination.
“Long story short, what intrigues me about Irezumi comes from ukiyo-e. Ukiyo-e, particularly Kuniyoshi’s illustrations of characters from the Suikoden, acted as a sort of gateway for me to get into the Japanese style,” Forand stated . “It showed me that tattooing was not only a viable career path, but that it’s connected to a long lineage of making images that live on the skin.”
Compositionally, Forand’s tattoos remain faithful to the fundamental properties — linework, layout, color palettes, and etc. — that have defined the Japanese style for centuries. He believes that in order to truly master Irezumi, one needs to intuit the emotion behind the masterpieces of the past, coming to an empathetic understanding of why bygone artists designed their figures the way they did.
Forand thinks of his spin on Japanese tattoos as a continuation of this long tradition of visually expressing one’s self. “Back then it was ukiyo-e. Now it’s anime. It’s almost like an evolution from that old feeling to a new feeling, and I try to incorporate it into a contemporary cultural and historical approach to making art.”
For Forand, it’s important to create Irezumi that reflects a 21st-century perspective, building on the rich legacy left behind by ukiyo-e artists but also making it feel new. This philosophy is what has enabled him to push the boundaries of the art form and develop such an original style.