Contemporary Tribalism: Interview with James Lau

Contemporary Tribalism: Interview with James Lau

In this interview with James Lau we talk about Hong Kong, Blackwork and travels.

One of the most beautiful aspects of the tattoo community is that it is global...few underground arts scenes can boast the reach and interconnectivity that tattooing can. Diverse and consistently evolving, this art form brings together people who often share the same values, interests, and devotion to skin aesthetics. Tattoo artist James Lau is no exception. In this short but sweet interview, he talks about how tattooing and traveling opens up endless possibilities to flourish and explore in this incredible world. Known for his pattern based portfolio, even his artwork is a perfect example of the inspiring things that happen when philosophies, styles, and cultures collide. 

What is your artistic background? Did you always want to be an artist?

I don’t have any artistic background, and I never thought that I would become a tattooer.

How did you get into tattooing? What do you love about the tattoo community?

It was almost the time I finished my fashion merchandising high school diploma at school, I had a friend who was working as an apprentice at a new shop called The Company Tattoo HK, the shop that I am working at now, and I asked him if they were looking for an apprentice. After a few days, he asked me to go to the shop and meet the owner Vince Yue and then I started my apprenticeship. I love that the tattoo community is international, people from all over the world, different perspectives, cultures. Many things to learn and get inspired from.

You do a lot of tribalistic dot and linework. Can you talk about your inspirations, and perhaps any historical aspects that you infuse into your work?

My works are inspired from all patterns, I try to take some elements here and there and mixed them together, that’s it, there are no meanings and historical aspects behind them.

Why do you think people are so interested in tribal, ornamental, and sacred geometry patterns? What is it about these designs that you think resonates with people?

I think that not everyone is into tribal, ornamental and scared geometry patterns. There are many other styles that are super nice like traditional Japanese, old school , Neo-Trad, realistic etc... I think I can’t answer this question because everyone see things differently.

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I’ve heard that Hong Kong is super progressive and artistic. What is the tattoo community like there? What is it like to be heavily tattooed in Hong Kong?

Yes, Hong Kong is a super progressive city in my opinion, a small place with a 7 million population, a city that never sleeps! I think that the tattoo community here is friendly and happy to share! To be heavily tattooed in Hong Kong is not a problem, of course people will look at you out of curiosity mostly not in a bad way.

When you aren’t tattooing, what do you like to do? How do you spend your days off or your vacations?

When I am not tattooing, I like to play video games, watch movies or series, I guess like everybody else haha. For vacations, I try to do something that I have never done before. Last year me and the Shop members went to Tibet by train, this year we will go snowboarding in Japan! 

Any travel plans, collabs, or upcoming projects you’d like to share?

Next year New York!!

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