Over the years, we’ve seen many an Enter Gallery artist inspired by tattoo art. From Peter Blake’s Tattooed People and Ramon Maiden’s depictions of stars of the silver screen, to Dan Baldwin’s iconic swallows, if tattoos were once considered taboo, it’s clear they’re now being recognised for what they are – true works of art.
On the week that Brighton Tattoo Convention takes over Brighton, we’re delighted to announce the first silkscreen prints by Mr Preston, one of the UK's most prominent tattoo artists, are now available at Enter Gallery.
In today's blog, allow us to introduce you to Mr Preston and his macabre world of existential art…
Mr Preston is an originator of the naïve tattoo style. In his art, which also spans illustration, fashion design and digital and screen printing, Preston uses deathly imagery to explore philosophical themes, with a nice dose of black humour thrown in to round things off.
Mr Preston commenced his artistic journey studying illustration at John Moores University. One element of the course that particularly appealed to him was being given a set brief, which he found really helpful for getting the inspiration flowing.
This love of responding to briefs helped him find his niche years later, when after a stint as a substitute teacher (hence the name, Mr Preston) he started an apprenticeship at his favourite tattoo shop. He tells us:
“These set briefs helped me to come up with ideas in my early days of tattooing. I enjoyed taking what clients told me they wanted to portray and coming up with ideas that they’d like.”
“It took time to arrive at my current visual language, and it was only after learning and trying lots of styles that I discovered what I wanted to do. I went back to my university-style of drawing and creating, almost setting myself my own briefs to help me move towards making pieces that said what I wanted to say.”
Mr Preston now has 11 years of tattooing his belt, and runs his own tattoo studio, Heartless Hands Club in Manchester.
Not Dead Yet
In addition to drawing inspiration from music, much of Mr Preston’s art is inspired by philosophy, and in particular, existentialism. This journey to creating ‘tattoos for people in existential crisis’ started when Mr Preston picked up a copy of Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre when he was teaching.
“After the highs of university, I felt quite sad and I lost trying to work out what I was going to do about it. Eventually, I ended up putting how I was feeling into my designs and it seems that many others feel the same.”
In every artwork, Mr Preston combines words and imagery to create pieces infused with a real sense of compassion and empathy for what it means to be human.
Much of his tattoos and limited edition prints are also inspired by old memento mori paintings – artworks that remind us of the fragility of life. Speaking of the enduring popularity of this momento mori style of art, Mr Preston reveals:
“I was raised religiously and when you reject that or disagree with it, it’s not only freeing but also positive. It doesn’t scare me to think about death. I think it spurs you on. It spurs me on.”
“My tattoos mostly have box frames around them so they sit like a painting on a wall, on the skin. This makes them appear almost at odds with the shape of the body, which serves as a reminder of the temporary.”
Mr Preston’s art is available at Enter Gallery now. Explore the collection here.