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Painter Tim Warner finds another medium with ink on skin
Painter Tim Warner’s artistic evolution has brought him into a new medium: skin. For Warner, painting has been intensely personal; he does not accept fine arts commissions, preferring to paint freely.
Nevertheless, Warner’s engagement with tattoo art brings him into an intimate connection with many clients. Unlike common perceptions, Warner consults with his clients as often as necessary to clarify designs, and he often maintains relationships with these clients after completion of the art.
Warner has joined Christine Bordeaux’s group of artists at the recently opened Blackbeard Tattoo Co. Other artists here include Jess Hobbs, Christopher Nash, Jake Eaves and Brandy Burgans. (Burgans has been profiled previously in The Pulse.)
The shop itself has an imaginative ambience, exuding freedom and class, in keeping with Bordeaux’s vision of “a unique and upscale custom shop.” She explains that her “artists can do whatever anyone wants, though they all have their own personal styles as well.”
Blackbeard Tattoo Co. also commits to community service. The grand opening block party at the end of May raised funds for both Wounded Warriors and the Community Kitchen.
Warner says that tattoos have become much more mainstream. His belief in tattoo as a fine art form finds confirmation in multiple factors. The arts are for everyone, and Warner’s clients come from all levels of society. These clients form a community, one far less concerned with class boundaries.
Anyone who enjoys tattoos knows that tattoo designs are often aesthetically ambitious. This ambition manifests in multiple ways. In the first place, Warner is not alone in his aesthetic goals. A tattoo artist may represent a client’s favorite artwork, duplicating it in ink. Contemporary artists sometimes recreate famous artworks, such as Marcel Duchamp’s version of “Mona Lisa”.
(Readers may recall the art gallery scene in the film “American Hustle” when Christopher Nolan’s character explains that a “Rembrandt” hanging in the gallery is actually a forgery. Nolan emphasizes that this forger is also an artist.)
The aesthetician Walter Benjamin discovered a significant cultural change in the fact of duplication, however imperfect, of artworks, by the medium of photography. One wonders if Benjamin ever imagined famous works duplicated in ink on human skin.
Tattoo portraiture can be as remarkably lifelike as painted portraits, and examples are not uncommon. Of course, readers may wonder about tattoos’ original aesthetic visions. The answer may indeed span centuries, and may also extend into “secret worlds”, such as the full-body tattoos of the yakuza (Japanese organized crime members), which are concealed by the wearer’s clothes.
On a larger cultural scale, the fact that we now live in an image-based culture has significant commonality with ancient pre-literate cultures, in that those early groups of necessity perceived the world as images. As cultures progressed, early forms of writing were sometimes based on images. Although our contemporary culture forms images that often imply forms of writing, we’ve also seen a resurgence of more ancient attitudes about nature and tribalism.
Vision energizes fine art media. We often credit artists’ skill in realization of such visions. Warner is quick to point out that ink is a particularly unforgiving medium. One may view a painted “masterpiece” without ever being aware of any “mistakes” that occurred in the course of its execution. Any mistake in ink remains permanent. Considering the profusion of lovely and intricate tattoo designs, this fact is breathtaking.
A native Chattanoogan, when Warner discovered his passion for art he pursued it relentlessly. He worked in different media, and he became deeply interested in Cubist and Surreal styles. Eventually, he studied with Daud Arkriev. Readers will recall Arkriev’s “Four Seasons” sculpture installation at the south end of the Walnut Street Bridge, but Arkriev also paints with fantastic skill in numerous styles. Warner developed a painterly interest in more classical styles, painting both contemporary still lifes as well as landscapes. He chose to work with light in his still lifes with a more limited palette, after Rembrandt and Caravaggio. Warner loves to paint in nature, where he uses a broader palette, exemplified by Vermeer.
Like Arkriev, Warner was represented by the late Thomas Harold Bowles, a major Motown figure, and traveled to Detroit with Bowles. Upon his return (and after Bowles’ untimely passing), Warner entered a yearlong tattoo apprenticeship, where he discovered that his fine arts skills translated well to the medium of ink. Now he pursues his vision in both paint and ink—but you can only commission his ink.
Find Tim Warner at Blackbeard Tattoo Co., 29 Patten Pkwy. (423) 805-3570, blackbeardtattoo.com