Ethan Switch - Tuesday, 30 December 2003
Hazed in plastic and pages baring all amounts of inked skin, a review of three tattoo magazines. A review that, much like the subject at hand, comes to the fore in a wave of bad recollection and cloudy thoughts. Made worse by the fact that sheer caution and sense was thrown to the side with the notes and thoughts written in an indecipherable clue of squiggles and malformed letters. Left now are faint images blurred to samples taken many months ago.
First off was title from Trentini. This one sticks out due to the odd shape of the magazine itself. Instead of the usual ratio given to the A and B document series, this publication came in about half the width of a average-sized magazine and towers well over the top. Pretty much like a menu in some restaurant that doesn't have a drive-thru.
All 74 black and white pages of nothing but designs and artwork. Like entrée and dessert are separated, so too are the designs, lined up in sections according to some overarching theme, such as tribal armbands or dragon motifs. A comment "arse on arse" is legible enough from the pad, but that makes no real sense to the scheme of things.
Laid out nicely with room to breathe, the designs are clean, bold and feature not one inch or drum of skinned flesh. Nor a single ad. There is nothing here for the casual reader not seeking some sort of inspiration for a tattoo.
Now, add black A4 pages, colour and some words and you've got Tattoo Flash from Paisano Publications. Of all the 94 colour pages there must have been no more than 4 solid pages of ads. That's a whole lotta skin and it shows. Page after page after page are given in to this. Short of it being a mindless walk of inked skin and artwork there is prose amongst the sea.
Artist profiles and short articles on the origins of some of the more enduring motifs pop up every now and then to quell the bleed of endless colour and the occasionally not-so-great canvas. In all, there's about six articles all up and they're informative, well written, pleasing and not at all brutal.
Which is something that cannot be said of Tattoo Savage. Also from the same stable as Tattoo Flash, holding these two together at first present themselves as nigh indistinguishable. Roughly the same weight, the same look and the same feel, reading what's inside is another matter.
Whereas the previous two focussed mainly on the tattoos, Tattoo Savage rips through the associated lifestyle of the harder set. Fetishes, acts of bondage, piercings and all the seedier stereotypes of people tacked with a tattoo.
Even though it's been a long time since reading on of the issues, the image of a guy with a huge pike in the middle of his tongue remains clear. And that was the first page, before the contents started listing the articles. Savage by name, savage by Fred. Or something along those well worn lines.
Following a few of the circuits in the magazine, whoever penned the articles must have either had one huge chip on their shoulders or tried to edit in and molest a gonzo passion. All that comes through is harshness tearing down the air and snorting it back up their noses only to throw it back up and call it art.
In turn, what might have been considered rough and ferocious ends up as hubristic and condescending. At least there's variety in subject and scope.