From The Gebert Gallery:
For over 5,000 years, man has chosen to document his journey through the art of the tattoo. From ancient civilizations to contemporary times the tattoo has been a symbol of man’s evolution.
In “The Human Canvas”, artist, Paul Ecke explores the reality that each of us is tattooed, some on the outside but all on the inside, where we all hide our burdens and pleasures in a very secret way. This suite is a continuation of the artist’s earlier work “Men Behind Gates”. “Men Behind Gates” represented a return to his classical figurative training and became an awakening of man’s emotional struggles – struggles imposed by society as well as self. Like “Men Behind Gates”, this is a raw and an emotionally driven series that is both bold and honest in content. Yet “The Human Canvas,” forgoes the implementation of the painted gate and instead propels the viewer to a more provocative and passionate exploration through the form of the tattoo.
Each painting was a collaboration of letters, drawings from tattoo artists and models who all participated to bring each work to fruition. All were united through the commonality of the tattoo – the art form of using skin as canvas.
Like the rawness of German Expressionism, Ecke used figurative line drawings, mirrored symbolism and thick impastoed paint to capture the human body. There is a three-dimensional quality to the works as the artist encapsulates many found objects into each piece. These objects reflect on the character of the person. Numbers from numerology and astrology, words, screening, photographs, textures and layers were all part of the process of the works. Each of these elements refers back to the artist’s previous series “Fractals”, “Industrial Elements”, “Quadrants” and “Patterns with Purpose” which use repetitive patterning to highlight the rhythms of nature and prayer. At first glance, one may be drawn into the stories captured on the canvas but as one pulls back the weight of the work fills the viewer’s senses as the tattoo transforms into a cathartic symbol of life looked at introspectively.
On the surface, the artist was confronted by the cultural stereotypes of tattoos. Instead he found intellectuals, professionals and artistic expression. He examined the historical, trends and decorative nature of the tattoo and discovered that the tattoo consciously or unconsciously is another form of a doorway to one’s deeper self. The artist saw how the tattoo transformed from man/woman’s journey to their coat of arms. In the process, the artist discovered that what was and has always been relevant has been who they are inside. With the revelation, he decided to expand his circle of subjects to include those close to him. Then the paintings took on another layer of meaning and he explored through symbol, line, cross-hatching and circles the conversations we all have about our stories and more importantly our mission in this life.
In dialoging with the many models and tattoo artists, writers, fans and friends one is struck by the symbolism of the tattoo as another level of realism that allows us as humans to connect to the keystone of the soul. Tribal or avant-garde, Japanese or urban, art brut or decorative the tattoo becomes the storyline that speaks to each of our own personal journeys and connects us to the universal.
1345 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
Phone (310) 450-9897