A Place Beyond Reality: Interview with Tattoo Artist Silly Jane

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A Place Beyond Reality: Interview with Tattoo Artist Silly Jane

In this interview with tattoo artist Silly Jane, we get some insight into the philosophy and process of a prodigious creator.

With the graphic manga, stylistic flair of such illustrative geniuses like Junji Ito of Uzumaki fame, or Black Hole's creator Charles Burns, Silly Jane is known for her distinct voice and designs. While women dominate her portfolio of stellar sketches and tattoos, each character clearly lives in a singular moment of time, a place beyond reality. Silly Jane's portraits capture the defiance, fear, desire, and power that lurks beneath the surface of societal constraint; these women have diverse personalities, emotions, and intentions.

Although clearly inspired by Japanese art movements, Silly Jane creates tattoos that are easily recognizable as her own. Hannya and kitsune masks hang from the faces of ladies in the throes of blood lust, Shibari rope and grisly Namakubi make appearances too, but it's all flawlessly merged with Silly Janes bold black fills and expressive red lines. Beautiful, and brutal, her work is captivating and enthralling.

JM: Do you remember the first time you felt the need to be creative? What initially drew you to architecture/design?

SJ: As far as I can remember, I always drew and needed to do it, it was a way of expressing myself as writing can be.

I went to architecture school because I thought I was getting closer to an artistic profession but it was the opposite, too many constraints, no creativity or freedom, so I decided that I won't continue in this direction.

What inspires your designs most? 

What inspires me the most to draw is to tell stories, I like that my drawings have a meaning.  When I was a child, I loved making poetry illustrations at school. About the themes, I love tales, legends, folklore, costumes and I mix all the beautiful things that I see.

What was it like being an apprentice? How do you feel being female has, or hasn’t, affected your experience in the tattoo industry and community? 

I was lucky to be well surrounded when I was an apprentice, I worked with people who have always treated me with equality and I never felt inferior. Today they are still very good friends that I value enormously.

Why do you think people are so attracted to taboo concepts, or images that illustrate eroticism and violence? What is it about movements like Ero-guro that spark the imaginations of entirely new generations of artists?

I think in all walks of life and not just the tattoo, the exposure of sex or violence has always had a strong impact. For my part I like this movement because it allows to illustrate a part of prohibition, madness, out of reality and propriety.

Since you often work with deeply erotic and intimate subject matter, do you ever have to deal with censorship? Is it important to you to educate others on the importance of freedom of speech/creative license?

I think it's important to express oneself freely, censorship intervenes to set limits, and I think it's probably necessary, the public who has access to social networks is getting younger and younger.

Personally, I like the illustrations that surprise, shock or disturb without having to go into porn. It's all about finding the right balance in the suggestion.

Remember when Bambi's mom is killed by a hunter in Walt Disney's film? The fact that it is represented by the sound of a shot rather than a raw image has traumatized a whole generation of children. Nothing is more fertile than our own imagination.

What does 2018 look like for you? Any collabs, travel, or new materials you hope to work with?

I am currently resident one week each month in London at Parliament Tattoo and in Bordeaux in France at The Church.

For the rest I let myself be worn by meetings and opportunities, I can not predict in the long run, I prefer spontaneity :)

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