is there any escape from noise?

Part 5 of my ’empathy chip malfunction’ series. This is probably the final instalment and where I try to tie up the loose ends.


We’re coming full circle through the chaos and confusion, back to the point of the original post.

There has been an ongoing and invisible war. A war that will most likely never end, and will certainly have no victor. At best, an uneasy ceasefire.

Turmoil, conflict, and frustration, camouflaged by the facade of control. But a facade so poorly constructed it frequently crumbles.

I suppose my struggle could be the result of environment, a lack of discipline, or just bad luck. I come from a family with a history of trauma, loss, conflict, division. There was love there, and hope. But there was a thread of something unspoken that weaved its way through the generations. I wanted to separate myself from whatever it was.

Maybe that’s where my nihilism came from. Maybe I learned it.

Maybe there’s a genetic/biological element involved. Of course, then we get into the whole nature/nurture discussion, which would take us off topic.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I generally view this stuff as background noise, whether or not it had an influence. I thought a certain way, and felt a certain way, long before any real awareness of the world around me.

Fortunately, there have been people without whom my life may well have taken a very different path. Those people have tolerated me or accepted me for what I am, gently nudged me in the right direction from time to time, or just known when to stand back and let me go off the rails.

Yeah, but how does it relate to the work?

Oh yeah, I keep getting side tracked. Didn’t I already mention that I get distracted?

Well, dreamers will be dreamers. Endless worlds, endless possibilities. The potential transcends any of the trappings of the real world. Are we not just trying to find stuff to do to fill the gap between the beginning and the end?

I don’t really think I’ve ever had any true ambitions or goals. Just do something interesting with my time here. I don’t even know if I have any particular interests, I am interested in everything, and nothing.

Tattooing allows me a great deal of freedom and control. I can formulate my own approach and style that suits my way of thinking, and I’m not forced to do anything I don’t want to do. I have to work in a way that suits me. That in itself creates a kind of filter. I only need to communicate with those already tuned in to my work, and that makes things slightly easier.

I don’t really want to have so much control, it’s very tiring and can be limiting, but it’s the only way I comfortably deal with external demands.

What’s that style called?

Anyway, the content of my tattoo work is heavily influenced by science fiction even if it’s not always obvious. It’s partly to keep me entertained, and partly my fantasy that I live in a different world.

I never had a name for the style but I was often asked, so I’d say it was graphic abstract. In reality, it’s just me doing my work in a way that appeals to me. Labels can end up getting in the way.

The style itself, if there is such a thing, is a result of my short attention span. I’ll get bored or distracted mid design, become frustrated, and move onto something else. It came from the fact my early drawings were usually left unfinished, for the same reason, and I liked the way they looked.

In part, the designs are about chaos, disharmony, and randomness. A breaking of expectations, embracing risk, and questioning aesthetic values. Of course, I do want the work to look good too, but that is subjective.

I noticed that in a lot of my work I often disregarded the foreground elements, leaving them empty, putting emphasis on the background instead. Quite a useful stylistic device. This wasn’t really a conscious decision though, and I wonder if it’s also saying something about me preferring to be at the peripheries, or in the background, rather than being the centre of attention.

The other aspect of my tattoo work is that it’s about process. Not so much physical process, affected by the configuration of the tool or mark making, but the process of thought.

The design construction illustrates the thought process behind it. The elements used can be as random as the thought process used to conceive them. In many respects, the tattoo compositions are actually illustrating my mindset at that particular time, using whatever subject matter or theme I’ve been asked to incorporate.

The ebb and flow of distraction and attention are reflected in the phases of my work, ranging from open and calm to chaotic and aggressive.

Your art is weird, I don’t get it.

Cool, I’ve heard that a lot so I’m used to it.

I’ve also heard that about me, and my tattoo work. It’s all good, and in many ways it tells me I’m doing something right. I’m trying to communicate with the world using a language I understand. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to decipher.

Back to the artwork.

I’ve always had a preference for art that is either abstract, conceptual, or minimal. I do like many genres and styles, but there’s something about work that doesn’t have a direct link to the human element.

For me, the human element represents noise and chaos, something I’m always struggling with. People bring baggage, whether that be politics, religion, emotions etc. All very complicated and sometimes divisive elements that can often get in the way of the simplicity of just existing.

The ever churning machine still maintains its influence on me through my non-tattoo work, but the noise is somewhat lessened. It still distracts me and pulls me from one idea to the next, never being able to stick with anything for too long.

But there is a theme, and it connects all the work. The escape from noise. This has nothing to do with styles, methods, materials, or genres. The incoherence of my body of work actually represents the noise.

It’s not about the individual pieces, whether tattoos, sculptures, or paintings. It is about the whole. My entire life I’ve been trying to construct a universe, using a language of my own, and filling it with artefacts that make sense to me.

I exist in a fantasy world of my own making. At least I wish I did. It would be much easier.

In many ways, my art work is an antidote to the strain of my tattoo work. A way of separating. Removing the human element helps quieten the ever churning machine. I don’t have to consider the needs of others, or use a language they understand.

I think I’m trying to express a desire for serenity.

By creating work devoid of the human element, making it emptier and more lonely, I’m wanting to evoke a sense that people have long gone, and only the artefacts remain, illustrating the disconnection I often experience.

Maybe by exploring emptiness and solitude, it is possible to understand the real power of human connection.

More from this series: