Breaking down taboos: Australian International Tattoo Expo in Sydney an exhibition of amazing body ink and art

By @angelaantenero on
Damon Holleis is a tattoo artist at Crossbones Gallery Sydney. @damon_tattoos

The Australian International Tattoo Expo arrived in Sydney last weekend, from March 11-13 at the Royal Hall of Industries at Moore park, showcasing the work of over 250 of the tattoo industry’s most talented artists in Australia and around the world.

With over 30,000 visitors annually, the event gave attendees a chance to learn about different tattoo genres, trends and techniques, as well as get tattooed or make an appointment with a featured artist.

But for one participant at least, the expo went beyond simply being an exhibition. It was also an opportunity for tattoo lovers and artists to break down the taboo surrounding the culture of body ink.

“By bringing together people from various backgrounds with the common interest in tattoos, it is slowly removing the social stigma that only criminals have tattoos," 21-year-old attendee Presh Moodley told International Business Times Australia.

“I personally know a few people in the professional field with tattoos – teachers and lawyers.

"With more people are getting them it’s possible in the next decade or so people won’t be judged harshly based on their tattoos.”

Discrimination against those with ink, while not as obvious as a few decades ago, can still be found in Australia. Many local clubs and pubs have a dress code that states that visible tattoos are not allowed. Recently, 27-year-old American model Kristen Leanne, who has a prominent neck tattoo, was denied entry into two venues in the Gold Coast, which caused an uproar on social media.

Moodley, who received his first tattoo back in 2012 of the album cover “The Mind’s I” by his favourite band Dark Tranquillity, on the outer section of his right lower leg, believes an event like the Australian International Tattoo Expo is also a great chance for potential customers as well as people with similar interests to gather and trade ideas.

For senior marketing manager of the Australian International Tattoo Expo, Rhiannon Kennedy-Bush, the event also helped promote tattoo as an artform.

“The Expo is a great platform for artists to showcase their talent to thousands of Sydney tattoo enthusiasts, win industry awards, network with peers and book new clients for 2016,” Kennedy-Bush told IBTimes Australia

One of the featured artists at this year’s expo was 21-year-old Damon Holleis from Crossbones Gallery Sydney, who specialises in black and grey realism and portraits.

“This was the first time I have tattooed at the expo. I [was] very nervous and excited but I have been there twice before and had a great time watching the shows, seeing artists I look up to tattooing, buying prints and talking to artists,” noted Holleis.

“I get my inspiration from artists such as Carlos Torres, Niki Borberg, Matt Jordan and Matthew James.”

Holleis had been doing a diploma in fine arts at TAFE for a few years, hoping it would help him get an apprenticeship.

“I have always been into art and more specially realistic drawing . . . A friend of mine knew someone who owned a tattoo shop and was looking for an apprentice so I was introduced to him and he took me on. I’ve now been tattooing for a year and a half.”

Having run for over five years, the Sydney Tattoo expo at the end of the day was about participating in a community.

“It’s a unique opportunity for visitors to get tattooed by talented artists from all around Australia and the world – an opportunity they may not have had without the Expo,” Kennedy-Bush added.

“To keep visitors entertained, we had a lot of activity happening on the main stage including circus performances by Heels Contemporary Circus, live art experiments and seminars lead by leading local and international artists.”

Special guests this year included Paul Booth and Roman Abrego from the US and international tattoo model Bernadette Macia, who joined artists from around Australia and the world, including Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan, and New Zealand.

For this year’s show, tattoo artists competed for a $10, 000 “Artist of the Expo” prize pool throughout daily tattoo competitions.

“I’m still deciding on my next tattoo. I will most likely get it sometime next year. There are so many potential designs but nothing is set in stone yet . . . getting a tattoo should never be a spur of the moment decision as it becomes a part of you,” Moodley quipped.

“Have a good idea of what you want but also be willing to take the artists input and opinion into consideration, research your artist to the best of your ability to make sure you're getting what you want in the style you're after! Don't let price determine your final decision, you get what you pay for,” Hollies concluded.

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