Take No Shit, Do No Harm: Interview with Tattooist Charline Bataille

Take No Shit, Do No Harm: Interview with Tattooist Charline Bataille

In this interview with tattoo artist Charline Bataille, they talk about queer community, tattoo inspiration, and the power of our bodies.

A positive force within the queer community, Charline Bataille is known for their colorful illustrative works that are magical, empowering, and full throttle Baby Spice bad assery. A celebration of liberation that includes Jenny Holzer sweetheart quote candies, radiant neon stretch marks on punk rock poodles, tender gay love scenes, Dolly Parton, rainbows, sparkles, and more. No matter how brutally honest and authentic the concept beneath the image may be, Charline’s inclusive and sanguine social presence is as integral as are the transformative tattoos that fill their portfolio. An ally for tattoo collectors as well as artists, this is one incredible human that is bringing the experience of collaboration within the art form to a whole new and evolved level.

In this interview with Charline, they talk about the importance of applying non-binary ideals to creation, the beauty of imperfection, and how DIY scenes can spark revolutionary changes.

What were you like as a kid? Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?

I remember being painfully shy! I still am, very, but I feel more confident in my shyness now! I grew up in the city and was also very independent. And yes, painting has been my number one hobby since day 1. I never ever thought I would do it professionally though wow! It took years of therapy (and saving up, obviously) to gain the courage to jump full force.

How’d you get into tattooing? Why was it the art form you were most drawn to and what do you love about it?

In my early 20s, I was deep into the queer punk DIY culture. We had DIY basement show venues, very moldy but truly fantastic times. We had many DIY trading platforms, clothing swaps, DIY list serves to organize, I was surrounded with people committed to changing things up and not interested in doing it within the system. Queer revolution not assimilation! Anyway! We would patch up our pants 3 million times before giving up on them and we would tattoo ourselves and that’s how I started! Yes yes yes, had I known what I know now and had the chance to do it again I would do it differently but, alas, that’s how I got into tattooing and luckily it informed my style and my politics positively.

I was drawn to tattoos cause lez be honest, they look freaking cool, first of all. I wanted a lot of tattoos and I couldn’t find what I liked around (that was before Instagram and the thousands of new amazing daring artists that are around and accessible now) so I figured, I’ll do them myself. Easier said than done tho, yes I have a shit tone of shitty tattoos that I love to love.

I love so much about tattooing, I am always both amazed and outraged by its history. I am completely annoyed by the western obsession with trad scums and absolutely admirative of freaky artists fucking it up and indigenous artists reclaiming it everywhere. I love how for some, tattooing is sacred and for others, it is the opposite. It’s such a dynamic form of art. Everybody needs tattooing differently but for marginalized communities, it really seems to help reclaiming your own body. Marginalized bodies are still constantly scrutinized, controlled my laws and norms, they are public domain.

For me personally, tattooing my body is a way to resist. My tattoos are marks that make it clear that this skin is mine and mine only. Growing up in rape culture and having been in abusive relationships, the lesson that my body isn’t my own was a quick one. People get to look, they get to stare, they get to comment and they get to touch without consequences. I like to make my body weird, to make it ugly. I like for it not to be sacred and I like to remind myself that YOLO.

Social norms are so intrusive that our relationship to our bodies is always tainted by expectations, laws and often violence. Patriarchal capitalist white supremacy is everywhere in and out of our bodies and so tattooing is political.

Your style is wonderfully unique. Can you talk about how it has evolved over the years? Are there any visuals, books, films, or artists in particular that you think inspired your style?

Thanks!! I didn’t do an apprenticeship so I never learned the *rules* before breaking them! I truly do not care about western tattoo aesthetic rules tho so no regrets here. I tattooed like I drew and painted, it never occurred to me that the healing part that separates tattooing from other disciplines should influence the art. It still doesn’t honestly. I have a feeling that my peers all feel that aging isn’t disastrous and tattoos being or becoming imperfect is part of our personal history.

My tattooing style came directly from how I painted and I think that might make it unique, the fact that I didn’t have to worry about rules and commercialization. I didn’t start tattooing thinking it would be my job so I think that gave me great freedom and the ability to take risks. I thought I would work in coffeeshops but tattooing took off.

As years passed tho, my tattooing style did change because my processs is highly collaborative! I sit and draw with the person before their appointment and so often I get access to different universe and it has really broaden my mind and abilities.

Some artists that I feel influenced my aesthetics are Nikki de saint phalle and Henry Darger. Also OBVIOUSLY all my contemporary peers that I consume and consume on Instagram. The talent out here is WILD.

As a queer tattoo artist, what is your opinion on the burgeoning queer tattoo community? It feels extremely empowering, and close knit, especially in the face of recent (and past) political and philosophical movements to erase queer visibility, but what has your experience been like?

I work in a queer tattoo shop, I guest at queer tattoo shops around the world. They aren’t perfect but I like the movement within the queer tattoo community.

Many of your artworks include statements about destroying the idea of societal normalities, or tearing down the capitalist facade. Can you talk about your politics or philosophies behind these statements? Do you feel that artists have responsibility towards changing the status quo?

Queerness, in a way, has a lot to do with abolishing binary thinking and the idea of *truth*. Understanding that most knowledges are socially constructed and that the way western society presents the norm is to be dismantle. I think us queer tattooers are able to see that there isn’t only one way to tattoo, and not only one way to get tattooed, trying to stay away from binary ideas like good art / bad art, good citizen / bad citizen, good body/ bad body, healthy/ unhealthy.

I try to celebrate bodies that are deemed undesirable, unproductive, illegal, dangerous and I think the more diverse the queer community is the more truths we can celebrate. I feel as artists we create a visual landscape that becomes knowledge, especially nowadays that art is hyper visible through social media. 

I feel like if we supersaturate, invade!!, the visual landscape, we have ability and maybe duty to destroy the idea of normal. I truly believe that selfies and self portraits are a form of resistance for marginalized communities. If we aren’t going to be represented at all or when represented we are a cliché token, well honey we shall do it ourselves. The more we tattoo images of fat bellies and brown hairy nipples, the less normal-neutral the pristine white cis skinny able body becomes. White isn’t neutral, hereto isn’t default, disabilities aren’t special. Laws and policies surely create those defaults but we know they aren’t neutral and we strive to destroy normal. 

Wonky lines on cellulites, queer slogans on the chest we are reclaiming, fat mermaids on our floppy falling lower bellies, we aren’t objects and we aren’t manufactured, we embarrass our 3D hairy greasy sweaty selves full of zits and ass hair.

Beyond creating art, what are you passionate about? What do you wish you had more time for?

My passion is also my work so I spend a lot of time doing it, in and out of work, it’s all blurry. I love therapy, I love my dog, I would love to spend more time outside and my current goal is to work on and reconnect with my spirituality.

Any upcoming projects, travels plans, collabs, or the like, that you’d like to share?

Here are 2 tattoo Instagram accounts that deserve a LOT more attention :

QPOC.TTT run by Ciara Havishya and INKTHEDIASPORA run by Tann Parker

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