Rais Desypri travels from London to Brussels to indulge in the world of all things inked.
I arrived at Brussels Rue de Cardinal at approximately 5:30 in the morning, sleep deprived, with the smell of old coaches still distinctive on my clothes. I always had this over romanticised idea of coaches; packed with lonely travellers thinking of the course of their lives with some indie soundtrack playing in the background. So who cares, I thought, this might be one of my few chances to experience this personal fantasy. With that thought in mind I hauled my suitcase behind me on the quest of my hotel room, excited of what my weekend would bring.
Knowing that no hotel in Europe would ever let me check in at 6 am, I decided to take a walk around Grand Place, the centre of Brussels. The feeling of walking around these tall beautiful baroque buildings touching the slightly pink sky, while holding my hot cup of coffee closely, is something I will always remember.
After walking for a couple of hours I decided that 10 am is as a reasonable time as any to check into my hotel, get ready, recharge my camera and head to the 5th International Tattoo Convention of Brussels.
Upon arriving at the venue, Tour and Taxis, in the heart of Brussels, the first thing I noticed was the distinctive buzz of tattoo machines in my ears. I walked around the space feeling the festive vibes. Tattoos have gotten increasingly popular in the past few years, but it is still not something that you see every day, or at least not to the extent of this particular event. The people around me were walking, talking works of art. Every coloured arm or leg told a story. No one gets a tattoo just because; it may not have a deep, sentimental reason, but it shows some aspect of their personality, a part of themselves.
As always, the organisers planned an entertaining program for the whole weekend. Freak shows, fashion shows, live bands, art auctions and of course, tattoo contests between a fine selection of artists from all around the world, representing different styles – form watercolour, dot-work, portraits, neo-traditional, minimalism, geometric and baroque. The thing all of these artists have in common, despite their different styles and backgrounds, is their choice to use the human body as a canvas to present their work. A tattoo artist and friend of mine once told me, “I love going out and seeing people with artworks of mine. It makes me feel that my artwork is alive”. Art presented on a person is interactive; it defines them and is continually defined by them throughout their lives.
During the weekend I saw teenage boys and girls, families with kids, middle aged punk rockers, goths, students… every type of person imaginable. I recognised that tattoos are now not exclusive to specific subculture social groups, but are formally recognised as a form of art. Being a tattoo addict myself, with four declarations on my body, I was excited to see a lot of my favourite artists in action, buy t-shirts with tattoo designs on them, discuss future tattoo ideas and meet interesting people from all around the world.
The convention is now over and looking back on it I realise that it left me with this wonderful feeling of unity among people from completely different backgrounds. Everyone is a friend inside those walls. Even if you don’t have a single dot of ink on your skin, if you love tattoos, you’re part of that big, diverse, colourful family. I saw some magnificent tattoos, I met some extraordinary people, I had an unforgettable weekend and all I can say is that I cannot wait for the next one.
Photography by of Rais Desypri