Jeong Hwi Jeon is hands down one of the best practitioners of softer black and grey realism in the world. Few other artists can even hold a candle to his work. It's not just the level of realism that makes his tattoos stand out, it's the artistic rigor that he puts into them. His illustrations are more than lifelike; he accentuates the beauty of life, embellishes his figures with brilliant light and meandering shadows, thus allowing them to transcend reality.
Many other tattooists in the black and grey style produce horror tattoos, close-ups of skulls and other nightmarish imagery, but the one above by Jeong is so cinematic in its perspective that it feels like it's straight from a modern scary movie. One can almost hear the skeleton groan as it lifts itself back to life in the spooky forest.
Black and grey tattooing is excellent for illustrating realistic busts, and Jeong's work exemplifies just how much can be achieved through contrasting various shades, literally casting shadows across the faces of his portraits. In his lady heads, one can even see the individual strands of windblown hair, light beaming through lace, the twinkle in teardrops, and more. These effects enhance the synesthesia of his work, making it so that we can almost hear, feel or smell his tattoos through viewing them. In short, it inspires an impression of an extreme reality on the behalf of the viewer.
Though his portraiture is arguably his strongest suit, Jeong's soft style also lends itself to smaller and more common tattoo iconography such as flora and birds. The preceding images illustrate how his style translates the timeless imagery of cherry blossoms, roses, and swallows into the liminal space between art and reality.
As with many black and grey tattooists, Jeong also excels at religious imagery, especially Christian. The statuesque portrait of Mary and the interestingly placed back-piece above speak to his incredible skill as a visual artist.
One of the most amazing motifs that Jeong works in is images from every day life in South Korea. These quotidian tattoos are captivating given the country's widespread aversion toward the art form. By bringing in sights from the real world into tattoos, Jeong is working to break down barriers in terms of what is considered ordinary. In other words, if there are tattoos that are expressive of South Korean culture, it can't make sense that the art form doesn't belong in that society. Though the images above and below might seem the tamest of his tattoos featured here, they actually are incredibly provocative in a political sense.
We hope you enjoyed perusing Jeong's phenomenal black and grey tattoos. If you want to look at more of his work, it can be found on Facebook. Because tattooing has been largely forced underground in South Korea, he might be a bit difficult to track down, but if you happen to be in that part of the world, a tattoo from him would be worth the trouble.