As tattooing evolves to embrace other factions of creative ingenuity, fine art has become a deeply influential aspect of tattoo iconography and aestheticism. In this interview with NT Limoges, we talk about expanding world views through exploration, the importance of personal growth, and how social media is altering the landscape of the arts world.
Based in Montreal, NT Limoges was kind enough to share some time with us to share personal perspectives and inspirations.
Can you talk about what drew you to the tattoo industry? What was your experience like becoming a tattooer?
I have always been drawn to tattoos, as a child, I remember loving to have fake tattoos of tribal dragons and badass skulls and this interest only grew with time. I got tattooed as soon as I was of legal age and when I went to college to study art it soon became obvious that I could start tattooing to pay for my tuition, apartment, and food. That was four years ago and ever since then tattooing as taken over most of my time.
Do you have a philosophy behind your creative output? Is your attraction to postmodernism and academism aesthetic, philosophic or something else? Who are your personal artistic heroes?
I am both attracted to conceptual and technical/academic art. When I was in university, I completely let go of my technical skills to embrace a more conceptual practice. I made Installations and performances mixed with "trash tattoos" to create projects on various themes like death, temporality, and commitment to our beliefs. Most of my artistic heroes of the time were modern or postmodern white males doing art for the sake of art, such as Joseph Beuys, Joseph Kosuth, Marcel Duchamp, and with no or little connection to the socio-economic or the political world. and even though I still feel attachment to what they did for the art world in the past, I believe art today has to educate people on politics, feminism, racism, body and gender politics, etc. The only person that has influenced me over the years and still does today is Fyodor Dostoyevsky. His characters that are pure of heart, free of faults and are always ready to help and understand others such as Alyosha Karamazov, are very influential on me and have driven me to view the world differently.
You recently did a collaboration with Epithumia Rose wherein you both tattooed yourself with the word “humble” inside an installation. I’d love if you could talk about the importance of personal/creative evolution, the idea of being humble, and the connection that has with your clients' experiences?
In any art practice, there is some kind of evolution. It can be technical or conceptual and it can be caused by many outside or inside thoughts but I believe an art practice that isn't constantly mutating is vowed to eventually wilt. As I said in the previous question, it is important to educate ourselves on social issues and since there are so many and they are evolving so fast, an artist has to change his art practice with how the world affects her/him emotionally or physically. Being humble is part of that. It means, to me, to be aware of our place and of our importance in regard to the rest of the world. It requires empathy and curiosity and someone who is able to humble himself/herself will definitely be more kind to others and will also be able to at least try to understand why some people act the way they do and not take everything as a personal offense. Humility as a virtue will also bring acceptance to differences and themes like privileges, genders, ethnicity, etc. I believe pride is the vice of today and that we could do with a lot less of it. Ironically, humility is a word that can't be used by oneself without involving pride.
When I work with a client, I am very selective about the projects I choose to do depending on my mood, but I always try to adapt myself to them and to understand the choices they want to make instead of pushing my ideas on their skin. My worst fear would be to have clients who are unsatisfied with their projects because it is technically flawed or because I didn't listen to their concerns and for that reason, I am always open to any questions or ideas they have.
How do you feel about the transformation that is happening to the art world, even beyond tattooing, because of social media? Are there positive/negative aspects?
Oooh, that's a hard one. Social media platforms are a double-edged sword. The biggest positive aspect, in my opinion, is the democratization and the accessibility to information outside the traditional academic realm. You can find information on anything and you can have access to so many artists around the world that have their own point of view on different matters and that is absolutely great. But it comes with even more unsourced information, fake news and modified or amplified facts. That is extremely dangerous for unaware or careless individuals and it often generates fear and hate. In the art world and the tattoo world, social media has brought the end of copyrights and the rise of over digitally modified tattoos. A lot of artists steal from each other and completely rip off designs, drawings and pictures that they find on the internet without asking for permission. Also, because of the rise in popularity and the abundance of great tattooers, we see more and more people modifying their tattoos so much on photoshop by removing textures, enhancing contrast and exposure that it disconnects the picture from the actual tattoo. This is done in order to meet quality standards but it creates fake advertising and can be deceiving for people who want to commit to having permanent art on their bodies.
Nonetheless, most artists like me couldn't survive without social media and we are completely dependent on the likes of Instagram and Facebook.
What advice would you give to young creatives trying to find their style or voice?
In order to find your own voice, the only advice I can give you is to expose yourself as much as possible to what you want to do. You have to assimilate as much information as possible on the world you live in. You have to understand what has been done in the past and what influence it had on what is happening today. You have to practice as much has it is needed to achieve what you want to do but you must be aware of your mental and physical health. I believe greatness comes at a price and that this cost might be too big to push yourself too far. In the past, I used to tattoo three to seven hours a day, six days a week and I believed it had to be done and that it was the only way to get where I wanted to be. I eventually burned out at 22 and couldn't work for about six months. Nowadays, I tattoo 2-3 days a week and I take breaks whenever I don't feel too good. Keep in mind that practice is only worth something if you are not completely exhausted and that resting is also extremely important.
Beyond tattooing/creating art what do you really love? What do you wish you had more time for?
I have a few other activities I spend time on and although tattooing is the main aspect of my life, it is very important to me to spend some time acquiring other forms of knowledge and spending time with friends. I am a big movie fan, in another life, I would've been a cineast, maybe. I spend a lot of evenings watching author films and internationally acclaimed movies that went to various festivals. Movies and books, even fiction, are a great way to acquire knowledge as they are often reflections of the real world. I also love playing board games and video games and I make sure my life doesn't only revolve around work and that I can take the time to fully appreciate it.
Do you have any projects, collabs, travel plans, etc. planned for 2020 that you’d like to share?
I really want to slowly make more of my own designs, I want to do reinterpretations of classical and Christian myth by transforming it to contemporary issues using my own pictures and friends as models. These projects could be funded by art grants instead of private customers and they would be accessible to people who normally couldn't afford to have high-end tattoos. I will also probably take it slow with tattooing as I'd like to go back to school to do more figure drawing and academic techniques in order to slowly perfect my knowledge at drawing and tattooing and to create the projects I mentioned above.