The Beauty of StrangeLove and Threesomes: Interview With Adam Vu Noir

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The Beauty of StrangeLove and Threesomes: Interview With Adam Vu Noir

In this interview with Adam Vu Noir, he talks more about his travels, background and what artists are his heroes.

Known for his travel across all seven continents, as well as his ultra clean, smokey smooth works of art, Adam Vu Noir was kind enough to give us some of his time to talk about his background, humble beginnings, insane work ethic and more. From his inspirations to his collaborations, Adam Vu's portfolio is full of clever innuendos and gorgeous amalgamations of iconic designs.  

Can you tell us a little bit about your personal background? How did you get into art to begin with and why was tattooing the profession you choose?

Ah! The dreaded question! I was in a few teenage punk bands growing up. I’d be in class drawing terrible band logos all over my Converse and when I’d get home I’d play on my Dad’s old Windows computer and make flyers for shows, on that funny program Paintbrush. I guess it’s a similar story with a lot of tattooers out there, you start getting tattooed because your friends and idols got them, and then it hits you one day that this is something you want to do. This was a different time for a bit of a transitional generation, the early/mid 2000s just before the social media boom. I went from comic books as a child to tattoo magazines as a teenager. Tattooing is what made me start painting, drawing, and evidently finding art history. A whole lot of hunger and clawing just to do your first tattoo. I had the door closed on me about a dozen times trying to find an apprenticeship in California. My first mentor was Samez of Cherry Tattoo in Rome, Italy. I saved up as much as I could over the course of a year to fly out for the summer in 2008. When I returned, I was given the opportunity to start and finish my apprenticeship under Jose Lopez of Lowrider Tattoo of which I am forever grateful for. I am no prodigy, I found out real quick it takes 100 bad tattoos to do one decent one.

Your work merges Asian, Chicano, Old School, and so many more styles in a gorgeous black and grey aesthetic. What visuals inspire you? Who are your artistic heroes, both tattooers and not?

I’m inspired by a lot of things. All the things you’ve listed, these are part of tattoo history and California culture. It’s the art of stealing, as in stealing from everything you see that resonates with you. You know it because you’ve seen it or understand the source, simply because it’s everywhere. I think the illustrations I draw on my own, whether for a tattoo or a painting, or anything, all deal with a bit of visual surrealism. I definitely put a focus on figurative stuff, a body, a face, eyes, etc... to form my own short story. I have an obsession with femme fatales, vintage propaganda, old movie posters, and pulp magazines.

The tattoo artists that have influenced me the most hasn’t changed since the beginning. Chris Conn, Jose Lopez, Chris Garver, Freddy Corbin, Jack Rudy, and Cotton Pickin’ Hiro. Those are 6 different styles of artists and I guess I admire them the most because no matter what they do, it looks like they did it. They ain’t trying to be someone else ya know?

Fine artists/illustrators/writers that have really inspired me are Suehiro Maruo, Caravaggio, Goujin Ishihara, Rod Serling, Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Frazetta, Jesus Helguera, Francisco Goya, Shane Swift, too many to name.

Well known for your decision to travel and tattoo on all seven continents, can you describe why it was so important to travel? Did you ever second guess yourself or think “this is crazy”, and if so, how did you conquer those thoughts?

You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with, so if you want to, it’s important to always change those people around and you’ll never stop learning something new. It’s so important to feel like the worst artist in the room. That and well...traveling somewhere completely different from home, and staying there for months at a time changes you. It’s just enough time for your outlook on life to grow and most of that superficial human stuff disappears the longer you stay somewhere that isn’t familiar. You make the most of your time.

I definitely had bizarre moments but I never second guessed anything because I had tunnel vision to get somewhere. My fear of flying and airports became progressively worse, sleeping wasn’t always great, bed bugs in dirty hotels/hostels, crooked cops, and your occasional “unfriendly” confrontations, but hey that happens everywhere.

What has been your favorite places you’ve traveled to and why? What is your all time favorite travel story?

Antarctica. A non-stop year of traveling like a hobo with a few bucks to my name, all leading up to reaching a life goal of tattooing on 7 continents. It’s probably the best moment of my life so far. There’s no way a few years prior while living out of my car would I have thought that that was going to happen. But once you’re there, and you see the landscape...it’s an alien planet. Complete silence. It feels and looks like a simulation.

Favorite travel story, too many. But the one that stands out the most was probably the scariest. After staying in South Africa for almost 3 months, I got to the airport to fly out, I think I was headed to Germany. I had accidentally grabbed a pack of cigarettes that weren’t mine the night before, walking through security, they pulled the pack out of my jacket and found a spliff. I got detained for several hours, searched like crazy, was told I was going to jail and needed a lawyer. Long story short, I got my friend Nicholas Mudskipper of Tomb Tattoo on the phone, he made a deal with the guys and I was free to go for about $80 out of my pocket, with Mudskipper agreeing to tattoo the guys that detained me. To this day, that hasn’t happened yet.

The Threesomes are often some of my favorite pieces...how did you come up with this genius idea, and what has the reception been like?

Thank you! It was made out of a desire to want to create something of my own. I’ve tried for years to think about something that I could say was MY idea. Within the first couple of months moving to Berlin a year and a half ago, I had a late night thought to buy a slot machine, make one reel - eyes, one reel - noses, and one reel - mouths. That way, if a person spins, they would eventually get a “face”...this evolved into what it is now. Take a spin, and what three images pop up, I illustrate and tattoo the combination. It’s been an amazing response thus far. I’ve spent the last year making different versions and variations of the machines. As soon as I’m bored with one I just make another. It’s amazing to see how many people have played and been tattooed with this concept. Three random images combined to form a single narrative. It’s a test on the spot of creativity and always a challenge to make that design relate to the person getting the tattoo. This last year, I’ve seen over thirty-something copycats from around the world. It’s hilarious, frustrating, and sad all at the same time. I’m no one important. But I have to accept the double edged sword, if you put something online it becomes vulnerable to everyone trying to make a quick dollar.

You work in a lot of different mediums...do they all support each other, or do some of them give you a much needed break from tattooing? Where does the inner motivation to create come from?

I’ve spent so many hours alone locked up in my paint studio this year, attempting to do something creative and often failing, that I can’t imagine life not doing that. I’m always going to tattoo, but sometimes doing something else creative adds years to your career and life. Repetition can make some people jaded. I don’t want to rely on one thing but at the end of the day, I’m just painting, drawing, or breaking something and trying to put it back together. Whether that surface is paper, plastic, or skin, I feel it’s all the same but with different levels of gratification.

The inner motivation, I honestly don’t know. Maybe if there was a good answer I’d say this is how I deal with myself, my phobias, and my fascinations. Or I’m just an insomniac that’s seen too many movies.

Any plans for 2019 that you’d like to share?

I’ve lived in Berlin for the last year and a half. It’s been an amazing time to just let loose and work on art freely. I was only suppose to be here for a year but stayed a little longer. I’m currently getting ready to head back home to Los Angeles permanently in February 2019. But before that, January 2019 is going to be StrangeLove Berlin. A pop-up tattoo studio and exhibition from January 11-14. We’ve done two in Los Angeles with this being the first in Berlin. I can’t express how honored I am to put this together and work alongside some of the most influential artists in the world, Chris Conn, Teide, Rafa Decraneo, Luxiano 31, Johnny Gloom, Han Shinko, Marcelina Urbanska, Blame Max, Gallo, Ant The Elder, Thomas Burkhardt, and Jonas Dirt Merchant. Everyone who has ever been a part of StrangeLove is the real deal. It’s going to be amazing.

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