Visions from the future.

Posted By Hanumantra Lamar on 13th August 2017

Trends are a lot like the tide, they are constantly changing and coming in and out of fashion. You can see it with clothing, decor, music and film. Those of us born in the 80’s had the pleasure of being exposed to when looking to the future had a time to shine and during this moment nothing for me shined quite as bright as the trilogy “Back to the Future”, with a more optimistic outlook than “Mad Max”. In the year 2015 we finally got to see what the world would look like compared to the world we’d expected to see based on these films. There’s definitely a distinct lack of self tying shoe laces, auto adjusting/drying clothes and of course the one everyone really wants to see…the hover boards. Yet in some ways I think with the way technology has progressed and how products such as an iPhone and Internet are every day consumables we have in fact exceeded what anyone could have truly imagined possible in that far off date of 1985. It was this film along with so many others such as “Terminator 2”, “12 monkeys”, “5th Element” and eventually “The Matrix” that got me fascinated with what the world could look in the years to come, (of course to a young boy “Total Recall” had it’s moments also).

Now in the year 2017 I still find myself drawn in to these sorts of films which look at where we humanity as a conscience collective see our future heading. Think of films like “Ex Machina”, “Chappie”, “Elysium”, “District 9” and the list goes on. The fact that these films even exist will in some small way influence the direction we take/are taking (see “Her”). I view matters such as these in the same way I do a person. That is that we shape the world we live in whilst the world we live in shapes us, it’s a closed loop circuit.

So it’s hardly surprising that these types of films and their concepts have had a hand in influencing the way I approach my tattooing. It’s giving me a clear direction in these choppy waters of Blackwork tattooing where I see many lost at sea with little bearing. So much of the drive and inspiration for Blackwork tattooing is based on what has been done historically by various indigenous people. While all of us are influenced by the past and the people who walked a path before us it’s important that we walk it now in our own way and keep a look out for a track less traveled that may be worth exploring.

In September 2015 I was working at the Stockholm “Ink Bash” tattoo convention before flying out to do a guest spot in America. I’ve said many times before how I feel that travelling and moving from your comfort zone is important for growth, even if at the time it’s not overly apparent how. During this trip I had a very obvious moment of growth, realisation and clarity. Where previously what I was trying to see with my work sat in the periphery of my vision, very blurred and confused it help bring it in to focus and in the centre of my eye line.

I was sat in my booth setting up my tattoo equipment for the day when a fellow tattooer who has been doing this job longer than I’ve known what a tattoo is sat down beside me. His name, Theo Jak. I believe he’s originally from New York and if you’ve had the pleasure of speaking to him you’ll know he’s a character full of flavour in a world that can sometimes be a little bland. He now lives in Stockholm and works out of “Infamous Studio”. In the past I got to speak to Theo about various things but this time we spoke about tattooing. This will have been a very unmemorable conversation for him but for me it was one of those moments that helps shape what you do. I will not repeat to whole conversation for various reasons, though mainly because my memory isn’t great. But the essence of what he said was this. ” I don’t pay much attention to tattooing these days, but I see what you’re doing with blackwork tattoo, I like it, it’s alright. It makes me think when humans are travelling across galaxies and we’re living in the space age these are the tattoos people will wear.”

Fuck me, my mind was blown. I know that it might not seem like such a crazy thing to say or to hear, in fact even at that time I wanted my work to have a contemporary look with a timeless style as I was aware that my tattoos had a future however long or short.  But in my mind when he said that something altered and it couldn’t be undone. Before this moment I knew I wanted to say something with tattooing but from here on out I better understood what I wanted to say. I began to build up a narrative in my mind of how the future could look. What the people from this time would appear like emerging from their habitat with tattoos, inspired by the indigenous tribes of Earth but now from a new world. They would be tattoos that emulated their surroundings and reflected nature whilst integrated seamlessly with the body. Think of a tiger with its stripes.

Since then these ideas in my head have just kept growing and all the while becoming more lucid. I keep feeding them as each pixel that clears helps me to identify how the tattoos I make on a daily basis evolve. I can compare it to the way an author will often have a whole back story for their characters. Though this information is often not revealed it helps the writer figure out how the character would react in certain situations or what they might say. So like a spider spinning it’s web, the larger it is the greater it’s chance for success. One of the greats of spinning a literary web was J.R.R Tolkien and he devised a whole world and even a new language to express himself and the story of his characters. Like these authors I visualise a future world where colonies of people are tattooed with big, bold, black designs. But as important as the tattoos I see are, so is the architecture they live and work in, the modes of transport they use or the types of clothes they wear, they give context to the idea of these tattoos. Each day that passes this vision becomes clearer and it makes the world we live in currently seem like a lie. The best way to predict the future is to have a hand in shaping it and so I try and make my contribution a daily habit.

Recently I have become fascinated with how close the past and the future are connected, in fact they are almost in the same moment seemingly destined to meet. It’s only that arcing second between the two of them that keeps them apart. But without that one “present” second in the middle then neither “future” or “past” exist. With the tattoos I look to create today I feel that I’m sat in my car on the open road, heading West at sunset. I have my eyes firmly on the  horizon excited to see what the next turn in the road brings but enjoying the warm wind on my skin in this moment. I know the road I’ve travelled so far and I’ll use my rearview mirror to look back occasionally to help me on my journey forward.

Since that weekend in Stockholm in 2015 I’ve had various breakthroughs, mainly in the feelings toward what I am aiming for. The most recent was in Bologna, March 2017 when I was once again working a tattoo convention (see the importance of travel for me). I had finished my tattoo for the day and was sketching in my book when I asked my assistant Misha if I could draw on her. Within a few minutes something emerged that felt different, I was drawing without pressure in a care free manner and I was gifted a design that acted as a marker for the future. Below is the picture taken and the accompanying quote from my Instagram.

“Tattooing is a game where the stakes are high and the tolerance for error low. Permanent changes are made to the way people look and in turn the way they view themselves. It’s a task that can not be taken lightly. 
People who seek me out for the work I do come with expectations and my aim is always to deliver more than what is asked of me. 
However with this pressure comes its pit falls and one of them is approaching a new task with a risk averse attitude. At this point it’s easy to fall in a secure but repetitive rut where the opportunity to grow is stunted. 
One of the ways I’ve tried to avoid being reckless with people’s skin whilst exploring new ideas is to express myself in different mediums where the stakes are low. 
But nothing compares to exploring lines of geometry on a living, breathing, consciously aware person. 
Yesterday for the first time in years I drew on someone just for fun, and it felt good. No pressure. 
I’m going to make more time for this, run with it and see where I end up.”

I was excited with what emerged from Bologna and returning on the Monday I had a client travel from the US to get tattooed on the Tuesday and Wednesday. Layla visited me at UN1TY with an open mind to where she saw the tattoo heading, which I personally find the perfect starting point. I took the essence of what I saw in Misha’s hand applied it to Layla’s leg. Once again I was pleased with the outcome and feel that it was a step towards the future I envision.

Since then I have been keen to keep pushing what I see as the tattoos of the future, whilst still using the tattoos from our past as a point of reference. My range of influences has grown dramatically over the years and more of my inspiration now comes from outside of tattooing. I am blessed to work on a regular basis with clients who put their trust and their skin in my hands, allowing me to make my visions a reality. In an attempt to keep the momentum flowing I have recently started using body paint to realise large scale tattoos without the pressure of them being permanent. I’m not sure where this path will take me but at the minute it feels like exactly what I need to be doing.