Abstract tattooing, the language of Ouri (@our__i__)

Posted on 19/04/2022No Comment

My name is Ouri (@our__i__ on Instagram), I’m a tattoo artist currently based in Paris (FR) and looking to pursue my career in NYC.

Blax: What is ‘abstract art’ and ‘abstract tattooing’ for you ?

To me, and for how I work with it, abstraction is linked to ‘absurdism’. I see art surrounding me all the time, especially in nature, and I feel like I’m just a messenger for what already exists.

I never draw or tattoo something that makes sense to me. My clients put the meaning they want into it, and I find this human exchange interesting : it feels very specific to human brains to create cognitive bias between things that don’t make sense. It’s a way of survival, and in a sense, I hope I can help people to deal with the vacuity of their existence – while I’m myself finding a way to understand the world surrounding me.

I’ve always focused on small details rather than the whole picture, and I can’t be more intrigued than by our living planet and nature constructs. I feel like observing and understanding what’s around us on earth is an imperative for those who want to have a meaningful life. Things don’t make sense, but you can accept it, and be a peaceful observer.

Working on large pieces of tattoo makes me consider one’s whole body as a system, which is very interesting and challenges me in looking for a balance in everything, even if I still want to care about every detail, every texture.

In addition, I’d say that I always had troubles with verbal communication. My tattoo career helps me to reach people that share a sensitivity with me and my production, it creates a space where I don’t have to justify myself, and where I’m instantly taken as who I am (since most of my projects are almost “carte blanche”). 

My art became my language, my way to navigate this world, and to be honest, this is just what I was looking for.

Blax: Can you describe your creative process ?

I’m always seeking new ways to challenge myself when approaching my tattooing process : the true “creative part” mainly happens with the drawing for me. I mostly work with the “freehand” technique, which means that I draw directly on people’s skin.

Regarding how organic the results of my works look, it makes so much more sense to find directly a dynamic for it on the person’s body, following the muscles lines and analyzing the body movements.

Afterwards, a lot of things emerge during the tattooing part as well. I constantly experiment with new things, and try new textures depending on what we’ve decided with my client. A body is not 2D, and a tattoo will move and grow old with it. I sincerely don’t understand how tattoo, as a medium, can be used to draw flat figurative representations on a moving, living skin.

In all my artistic approaches (I’m more generally working with visual arts, including video and photography, since I have had a degree and career in the audiovisual sector), it feels very essential to me to start with observation and to accept what will be our “material” for work. For instance, as I was a cameraman for live concerts/performances, I always had to adapt myself to what was happening at the moment: the show, the body movements and the human energy.

I just feel the same about tattoos. Each human being is unique, and I just have to find ways to observe and understand them, to make one’s body talk in its proper language. This is why I’m used to spending a lot of time talking with my clients : about their motivations concerning the tattoo I’m gonna give them, what they imagine it will change in their life to evolve day-to-day with this tattoo; but also how they perceive my approach more globally.

I’m always curious to know how people chose me for their project, it helps me to translate their point of view in my art. Since I’m not the one that will live and die with that body modification, I find it essential to understand the exact mindset a person is coming with when wanting to invest themselves in such an intimate, intrusive and confident gesture.

Blax: Can you describe a tattoo concept ? Why and how did you develop it ? Conceptually, what is the idea behind it ? Technically, how did it happen (preparation, process, tattooing) ?

life is an experimental journey undertaken involuntarily”, said Pessoa.

As previously mentioned, I’m interested in finding ways to challenge my creative brain into artistic productivity. Since I assume my art is absurd, I love to imagine obstacles/difficulties that I could add to give an “handicap” to my creative process. I will choose these interferences in special creative processes, that I sometimes bring out as performances.

Discussing it with the person coming to get tattooed, we will find concrete material ways to influence my drawing and/or tattooing process. These interferences can be the music we listen to, the place where the drawing or tattooing process takes place, the tools I’m using to paint/draw on one’s skin, the images I’m looking at during the process… Wanting to bring those difficulties consciously makes sense to me, in my artistic mindset, because I made the observation that they’re always existing anyway. Anything in your behavior, as a human being, will be influenced by subconscious difficulties, in a way that scientists still don’t exactly understand. It seems evident that the same thing is happening in all artistic processes. I won’t spontaneously draw the same design if I forgot to eat in the morning or if I had a hard time with emotions before the session.

In fine, bringing those obstacles into the conscious, and being transparent on how we see and comprehend them, is a way to accept failures and experimentations. And it seems to be my philosophy in life in general, so it seems natural that you can feel it in my art as well. I feel like this world would be a better place to live in if more people could accept that human brains are not perfectly made, that humanity is plural and far from being flawless; and that in a system, these discontinuities are precisely what makes people flourish, on collective and individual levels.

I believe that nothing comes for a reason, but that random dynamics can influence us in our choices, and that these choices construct us as persons. So why not choose absurd, concrete human frames for this randomness, to challenge them and see what art is revealing in our eyes ?

The Fungi Tattoo process example:

I worked on this project with a chemistry student. He showed a special interest in fungus microscopical constructions and gave me “carte blanche” on a delimited place on his left arms, in between other tattoos.

It has been a long time before that I was thinking about video-projecting moving images on skin in order to achieve my freehand drawing. The idea is to be surprised and disturbed by the real-time moving images/videos, so I have to adapt myself and create layers upon layers, then find a connection between them.

(Video credits: shot by Collin Kluchman, edited by ouri, music by Nihyl)

For this project, I wanted to use a microscope linked to my video-projector and look at a fungi cut in real-time broadcasting on my client’s arm. I like the fact that my drawing would have resulted from what the living micro organisms would have been doing in there at this exact moment. I also asked my client to bring his own cut of fungi, the one that he preferred, that made sense for him.

I didn’t get the microscope in time, so I chose to adapt myself by creating a moving presentation of different microscopic views of fungus. I made them by melting one into each other, with different rhythms and fading parameters (sometimes based on light, sometimes based on colors…). It was very challenging to force my brain to follow each image and find intuitive ideas with a few amounts of time, each time an image passed by.

A lot of the final work resulted from the tattooing part itself, because I added a lot of textures thanks to my tattoo technique itself. I found it very interesting to share that experience with my client and the videographer that recorded the performance: I could feel the impatience, the tiredness from standing for a long time, and the deep interest in my work at each step of the creation.

I still want to use a microscope to broadcast organic features on people’s bodies in my next creations. I like that I can ask them to bring anything we want to look at in detail, and that it will impact the result in a way we can’t predict.

Blax: What do you want to give to people, to “teach”, to make them realize or transmit ? (is there a “therapeutic” perspective ?)

As one of my mentors once said to me, “people getting tattooed always come with something to heal”. 

As tattooers, I think we have this responsibility of respecting the intern process a person is going through when taking part in such a striking experience, that will literally mark their life. There is a past existing before the tattoo, and a future coming after, with the tattoo. It is always important for me to remind the people who want to get tattooed by me : it is marking a point in time, and this moment should be memorable in a positive way for you.

I hear a lot of tattoo artists talking about the “eternal” aspect in tattoos. I might see them more as steps of a construction for someone, of an evolution. I myself like to see how tattoos are being added to my body with time. It makes me more conscious of the path taken. I existed before, I will exist after, I’m just collecting tools to help me cope with life at precise, meaningful moments.

And this for me, comes with the human connection. Tattoo is a human connection that will mark you for life, and you should be seeking for the most meaningful experiences for you to remember this permanent modification, of your outer and inner being.

Blax: What should people know before contacting you ? Should they suggest anything specific, what should they know or is it better to let you create and perform ?

I enjoy when people don’t have a clue of the reason why they get tattooed by me, I think spontaneity is a rare yet valuable dynamic to incorporate into tattoo processes. I also paradoxically like it when they come with their own stories and ways to make my work serve their intentions. 

I usually ask a few questions about their life, and what placement and size they thought about for their tattoo. I then ask for pictures of what they preferred in my previous works, or from any other inspiration they could find. If I don’t feel like my work will connect with their wishes, I will redirect them to some colleagues. It’s important for me to feel that I can express myself in the most authentic way towards somebody, otherwise, I don’t know why I’m doing this job.

As for a lot of artists, my most interesting works come from having or almost having “carte blanche” given by my clients. This is, personally, the freedom I try to give to the artists that are tattooing me, because I know that a strict framing won’t let them enjoy what they’re doing, and it will negatively affect the result.

I honestly think you should get tattooed only by people you feel you connect with on a human and philosophical level. This is for me what a tattoo is about.

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