Composing uniqueness with abstraction, by Tauno Ostra.

Posted on 16/05/2022No Comment

Blax: Can you present yourself ? (Where do you come from, why tattooing, why abstractly ? )

My name is Tauno Ostra (cntmprryttts on Instagram, and website ) and I am a contemporary artist from Tallinn, Estonia. Before getting into tattooing I was an active fine artist having shows locally and abroad. Here are some gallery views with my work. 

My work has been abstract since I started to really study art and got deep into it. I guess I was just really tired of drawing realistically and realized that no matter how good I do the drawing it will never be more than a representation of something already in existence. Abstract, minimalism and even conceptual art showed me that I have the possibility to create something that would never exist without me  – be it the artwork itself or the concept behind it. The freedom it brought with it was just too good to turn away from. Really showed me the purpose of doing art. Before that I was just drawing/painting…

So one day, after a few drinks with my friends, I realized that I see tattoos everywhere. But they are all representative or have a narrative – birds, castles, flowers, etc… yet I was focusing on the use of color/linework, the visual elements. That got me thinking…what if? So I sent my portfolio to all the tattoo studios I knew and got rejected from all of them. Except for one – the one I forgot to add the link to my portfolio. I got an interview with the owner of a newly formed studio (Skin Deep Tallinn). So I did what I had to do, in my opinion, to get accepted – I bought a new sketchbook and spent every single moment drawing “tattoo designs” for a week – pages and pages of drawings I thought would get me accepted (flowers, birds etc.). It worked and I had an apprenticeship. 

In my first 4-5 years I worked as a traditional/neo-traditional tattoo artist to focus and finetune all I needed for making good and lasting tattoos. My career as a gallery artist was on a break until 2021, when I decided that I have been away from it for too long. By then I was already working in one of the busiest and most respected tattoo studios in Estonia (Studio Malm), but decided that I need a space to do everything I want to do (contemporary art/write music/illustration in addition to tattooing). I teamed up with an old friend (Kirke Tinno, @abstract_kiti on instagram) to open the first contemporary art/tattoo studio in Estonia and continue from where I left off.

Occasionally I still do traditional/neo-traditional tattoos because my way of doing them got considerably big here in Estonia and I do enjoy them too. 

Blax: What is Abstract Art and/or Abstract Tattooing for you ? 

I enjoy it for all the reasons mentioned above. But to bring forth one reason it would be the composition element of it. There are so many ways to go… Sometimes I find myself compelled by a dissonant composition – feels like everything is random, but in a perfect way. 

The human body is probably the best canvas for abstract art. It´s not a static canvas. It´s always in motion and distortion. You can make the design go over from limb to limb (which is kind of what I did with before tattooing on canvases shown in the exhibition views) and there are still enough static areas that don´t distort the image as much for a way to add some balance to the movement, but I enjoy what the movement does to the artwork. 

Quoting Dr. Frankenstein – “It´s alive!”

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)?

It’s hard to choose one. But I think the first one I did is still quite dear to my heart. It’s just a pair of pages from my sketchbook from the university days, one of many.

I made the tattoo in 2018 just to give it away. At that time I was almost sure that I will need to keep doing traditional tattoos and it was my way of burying the dream I had, before I started tattooing, to do abstract art on human bodies. So one evening I went through my sketchbooks and chose the one I liked the most. Tattooed it for free and said goodbye as it was supposed to be my first and last abstract tattoo. My way of checking it off at least in some way.

After posting it on social media I got mixed reviews for sure… But it never bothered me. I believed in it. So the coolest comment about it I got from my future customer two years after (2021) that he saw the post when it was made few years ago didn´t think much of it… Now he acknowledged himself asking me to make him something similar…That meant a lot.

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

The idea behind it, and the similar work I do, is that I wanted to remove the narrative behind “an image”. It was just made to be enjoyed as it is  – colored imperfect shapes in motion. Mysterious.

Looking back at it I … Aren´t we all just mysterious imperfect shapes in relationships with each other? 

Blax: Do you have a preferred size and body location for these tattoos ?

Not really. I try to make the best out of every situation, but that´s why there are consultations. To discuss options. Ways to do it. 

What I really enjoy is spreading the work all over the body. Human body is in motion and so should be the tattoos on it. That´s how the body becomes the artwork not just a place to collect them. 

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 ? In short, Who is your “ideal” client? 

What needs to be said is that every project starts with a consultation first. Always. Even when someone chooses an available concept from my website or wants “something simple”. The work is specific to the body and that means the design might need some changes and the possibilities need to be discussed beforehand.

I do include people into the creation process. They come to me because they like what I do already and I guess kind of trust me and also realize that they cannot imagine the full capability of the idea. So what I do is I am in contact with them throughout the designing process. Sending different compositions and ways to approach the concept until we narrow it down to 2-3 compositions we both enjoy. From those they need to choose the one they want so that during the session it´s just me handing over the artwork and no disruptive stalemates.

I do ask everyone to try to be open and think outside of the box with me. Yes, it is a lot of work before the session, but that´s how I get the results everyone is happy with. 

Blax: Anything to tell about your pricing ? 

As always – it depends on the project. I do enjoy smaller projects as well as big ones. Some small projects keep adding up to bigger ones but I do only take one project per day to have no rush and full focus on the perfect result in mind. So, depending on the project, the session prices start from 250€.

Blax: Anything to add ? Any more comments or details ?

I love where the tattoo scene is moving towards. It´s more and more abstraction. New styles emerging… Thank you for this interview. I am honored to be a part of the Blaxtract family and truly believe you are making some big changes with your amazing work with the page and instagram. I have already connected with a few artists from your pages and all that´s left to say is thanks for bringing artists together! 

Thank you!

Tauno Ostra

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