I had a trip down to Cornwall for a couple of days last month. I had noticed a couple of write ups of the Tattoo – British Tattoo Art Revealed drop in to my media channels a couple of days before my arrival. In a post house move haze, I had assumed this was at the Maritime Museum in Greenwich and was delighted to discover it was just down the road from my holiday cottage in Falmouth.
I had seen a small exhibit about the history of Tattooing at the Museum of London last year, which I had found fascinating. The background to these historical and personal designs and the talented individuals who bring the ideas to life and breathe their own stylistic elements made for an interesting exhibit.
The exhibition at Falmouth expanded this idea, as well as giving us a history of the tattooing on British shores. From the arrival of the art form on ‘live exhibits’, brought by sailors from far flung places, to these sailors getting their own tattoos, to it moving to the general population, provided a timeline start the exhibition. Then there was a large section on the tattoo artists themselves, examples of their work and discussions of how society has seen tattoos through the years.
The main crux of the exhibition was as the if Tattooing is a form of art? If it is, then how should we capture the art for future generations, or is it just to be lost when the artwork dies on the person it is inked on?
The areas I found particularly interesting was the social history of tattooing, the idea of high society Victorian ladies having beautiful and intricate tattoos under all their layers of crinoline. That as Tattoos went in and out of fashion, the blue and white collar workers could hide their designs under shirt sleeves, but those in more manual labour had no choice but to show them off – so tattoos became a ‘class’ thing. When tattooing was out of fashion, groups of tattoo artists and tattooed individuals formed clubs to keep the scene alive until it came back into fashion. I also enjoyed the section on local people and the story/history behind their tattoos, from personal reflection, personal protection and desiring beautiful art on their bodies.
Don’t miss the extension of the exhibition up on the first floor near the cafe, where tattoo artists featured in the main exhibit had been commissioned to produce more traditional artworks to be displayed in the museum, it really showed just how talented these artists are as designers and artists in mediums other than human skin.
If you would like to visit, the exhibition runs until January 2018 for more details visit their website https://nmmc.co.uk/