The first gallery I visited was The Brunei Gallery in Soas University , it must be wonderful to be a student and have to opportunity to see cultural exhibitions in the university.
The exhibition was the Sacred ink - The Tattoo Master
Photography : Cedric Arnold
Cedric Arnold has captured an in depth vision of the culture and the mythology behind the Tattooing in Thailand. The monochrome images took my breath away at first sight , the emotion, culture and passion behind each photograph was present in the room, each photograph captured a story . In Thailand tattooing is still associated with prisoners and the lower classes , however its is becoming more acceptable in society, passed down by monks and laymen, Thai tattoos are used to protect the person from harm. Yantra tattoos are to empower the person with sacred ink , images of gods and other objects of their religion are inked on the skin,to create a story of belief that is imprinted on their bodies.
The tattoo's are delicate , they make you want to follow them round the body , a visible journey through the spirituality has been portrayed in this image. I believe if this image was placed as an editorial shoot in a magazine it would look spectacular . The accessories are beautiful, the man appears to be carrying a symbol around his neck that has been hand carved, this automatically creates questions in my mind .... What is the symbol ? what does it mean ? who carved it ? why is it around his neck ? I would like to create some further research into the different beliefs and mythology behind these Thai tattoos and symbols . It excites me to think that everything on that body has been inked for a reason and carries a strong link to the beliefs of that person , inscribing this on the body certainly makes the skin appear blessed .
Applying the final lines of the tattoo using ancient techniques and tools .
Ceremonies are held annually for monks who often have their tattoo's done before becoming a monk. The patterns in the fabric, tattoo and gold mask are amazing , I will detail the reason for the gold mask below .
The pain !!!! This must have hurt !
That was my initial thought when I gasped at this image , after catching my breath i began to notice the beauty of the design and the contrast between the circular shape on the skull and the lines on the shoulders . It almost appears to be fabric , the ink has raised off the skin slightly and created a great texture in the skin. I would like to recreate a similar design using a bald cap , I feel the only way to achieve a precise design would be to use a small brush or even a cocktail stick for the intricate designs .
This instantly makes me think of the sleeves and full body tattoo's in western cultures it would be interesting to compare the two as often tattoo's can represent a gang or symbolise a belief in western culture . This image has also made me think of the inside of the hand, the design look amazing and reminds me of henna tattoo's used in the Muslim culture.
In my previous research I was looking at skulls and the different forms they took on after death whether that be the preservation or the colourful designs that the Mexican artist created. This human skull has been inscribed with prayer , and gold leaf has been applied , this human died violently, however the prayer has now made it a sacred , spiritually powerful object.
The wearer of the mask becomes part of the anicent Thai legend that is Ruessi Ta Fai , one story about Ruessi Ta Fai is that he was the first incarnation of the Lord . The wearer will become in a state of trance , his voice will shake and the appearance of his hands will change into that of an old man . After his body has been taken by the spirit of Ruessii Ta Fai he will then chew on beetle nuts making his mouth appear to be bleeding.