Portraits in Pattern: Textiles Evoking Tattoo

5 October 2012

Massey University textile and photography students present a photographic exhibition of tattooed portraits with Portraits in Pattern: textiles evoking tattoo at Toi Poneke Gallery, 12-27 October.

This is a tattoo exhibition with a twist. Most of the models in the portraits have no tattoos nor would dream of ever getting one. Instead the tattoos that adorn these models are, in fact, printed textile designs.

Textile student Katie McFarland says working across disciplines has brought its own challenges and rewards. "My partner and I aim to dispel the line between photographer and textile designer, and use this project as a way to understand each other's fields. 

"It's an excellent opportunity for two disciplines to meet and explore the overlap, resulting in a display of beautifully executed design and photography working as one."

Initially the textile students were challenged to find models who would never imagine themselves as being tattooed. After interviewing their models, the students created surface designs that mean something for the models.  

Katie says she was inspired by her model 'Nannie'. "Her love of florals and William Morris patterns provided the fuel for my designs. I aimed to create a unique tattoo embracing this classical style and incorporating it into a contemporary sleeve tattoo. A Nannie with a sleeve - how hip!"

Then it was the photographers' turn - responding to the dialogue behind the designs and the designs themselves. The different photographic approaches presented a diverse selection of images - each as unique as the textile produced.

This exhibition challenges the idea of decoration and adornment as being frivolous or only 'skin deep', by embedding personal meaning into the surface designs.

The opinions of the models and students towards the art of tattooing have changed since doing this project.

"Up until recently I was never somebody who was really fond of tattoos or who would consider getting one," says textile student Hannah Hutchinson.

"However, after researching the vast range of tattoos, I feel I am a lot more open towards them now. I've come to see tattoos as a personal - or public - way of expressing your visual aesthetic and/or representing something meaningful and significant, so the body is like a canvas that you have with you 24/7."