Monday, January 31, 2011

Art and Tradition of Cars and Skin

This city is fortunate to have many exhibition spaces which cater for diverse interests. During the weekend I was able to indulge both classic and more subversive curiosities in its most modern and traditional venues.

One of our distinguished postmodern buildings hosted the Austin Healey Car Club. Normally these rounded English vehicles do not garner my attention, but I appreciate their period appeal and similarities to those more audacious American models.

Even in the 1950s the conservative Austin is remains reminiscent of 1940s styling, which we can see in this 1954 Somerset convertible.

If someone came by in one of these, who could say "no" to a country drive?

Her cousin was a utility vehicle, with customised spats and hubcaps.

And why shouldn't a girl like running boards on a car like this?

Look at the hardware on the steering wheel!

I liked some of the recurring features, like the inset turning indicators, and Bakelite knobs on the interior of the more prestigious models, like this 1950s Atlantic.

The Austin badges and emblems were variant and rarely ostentatious, even when applied in multiples.

Interestingly, in the space-age conscious design of the 1950s the badge became more reflective of  Art Deco streamline on this Cambridge.

The general conservatism of this make, and this exhibition was starkly contrasted by my second exhibition of the weekend: a Tattoo and Arts Festival.

This had Madame Lash's vehicle for a mascot: A hell-fired 1959 Chevrolet.

Although there were also bands, clothing and merchandise, the focus of the festival was tattooing. Artists from United States, United Kingdom, Singapore, Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia whirred and buzzed in scores of stalls, as living canvasses lined up to be indelibly coloured. The array of design was surprising, from the fantastic to the traditional, applied to head, feet, nether regions, and everything in between.

I watched stoic youths, burly men, and an array of women quietly succumbed to the artists' needles for hours.

Most interesting was a traditional Indonesian application of ink by a needle attached to a wooden pole and hit with a small mallet. The tattoo artist and his assistant stop every few minutes to wipe the fluid that raises to the surface of the skin. It is a laborious process, but reiterates the traditional roots of this art as forms of initiation, commemoration, and its related spiritual connotations as well as its aesthetic value.

I did not want to encroach on the privacy of the artists or the people being tattooed, so I do not have any photos of the individuals. Even when I asked to photograph merchandise, I was firmly rebuffed. I have, however, a collection of their commercial presence, which also manages to give an insight into their work.


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