Tattoo artistry on display at Seymour gallery

Ink and Flesh poetry event set for Sunday afternoon

Tattoo at the Seymour Art Gallery. Ink and Flesh event set for March 29 at 2 p.m. with local writers performing poetry inspired by the works on display. Featured tattoo artists Nomi Chi and Alison Woodward will sketch in the gallery on April 5 from 2 to 4 p.m. Tattoo will remain on display until April 11.

The Seymour Art Gallery's current exhibition, Tattoo, seeks to showcase, in a gallery setting, the impressive work being done by local tattoo artists.

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"This is work that you can see bit by bit on the streets - a glimpse of a beautiful tattoo on someone's wrist holding the pole on the bus, or flash of tattooed sleeve as you pass someone in the hallway - but it's very impressive to see it all laid bare on the gallery's walls," says gallery director and curator Sarah Cavanaugh.

In addition, Tattoo is intended to discuss how the artists address, overcome and embrace the challenges of tattooing as an artistic medium.

"The exhibition just opened this morning, and already people are having interesting conversations about the work. Regardless of how you feel about getting a tattoo on your own body, the beauty and artistry in this work is undeniable," says Cavanaugh.

Tattoo launched Wednesday and staff are presenting an opening reception Sunday, March 15 from 2 to 4 p.m. The show highlights the work of six artists through the display of photographs of their most memorable tattoos on skin. Each artist is exhibiting two works, two-by-three feet in size, that were produced by the gallery from their images. "Most of the artists in the show also do drawing or painting and some display that work in galleries, but you don't usually find tattoos in art galleries," says Cavanaugh.

Other exhibition elements include the display of some hand-built custom tattoo machines from one exhibiting artist, as well as the screening of a video containing artist interviews.

Exhibiting artists include Nomi Chi, Ryan Halter, Gerry Kramer, Joel Rich, Alison Woodward and Jesse Young, hailing from Vancouver, Richmond, Sechelt and Victoria.

"Tattooing offers a constant conceptual and technical struggle, which I love," says Chi, a 25-year-old tattoo artist and illustrator who lives in Vancouver's West End. Chi works at Gastown Tattoo and has been a professional tattoo artist since 2009 with nature, esoterica and the macabre among her typical go-to tattoo motifs. She got her start doing self-described "awful tattoos" out of her apartment and went on to complete a challenging apprenticeship.

"I learned the basics. The rest is trial, error, observation," she says.

Chi, whose two works in the Seymour show include a chest piece as well as a three-eyed cat, has an active gallery and illustration practice alongside tattooing, but this marks her first time exhibiting at the Deep Cove space, which she's looking forward to. "I just think it's great that tattooers in Vancouver are getting some recognition and support from fine art institutions. It's not often that galleries ask to feature tattoo work in its own context," she says.

"I would hope people would gain, or buttress, an appreciation for the flexibility of the medium," she adds.

In addition to Sunday's opening reception, Seymour Art Gallery staff are presenting three other public events related to the exhibition.

Ink and Flesh is set for March 29 at 2 p.m., and will see local writers perform poetry inspired by the works on display. And, featured tattoo artists Nomi Chi and Alison Woodward will sketch in the gallery on April 5 from 2 to 4 p.m. Tattoo will remain on display until April 11.

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