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KHMER TATTOOS: ROBERT PHO

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Khmer style tattoos or Cambodian art have become increasingly popular. 

Tattoos of Cambodian or Asian influence are strikingly detailed and exotic. They are beautiful, enticing, provocative and mysterious in ways that have increased their popularity, and the deep-seated history behind the art is rich with cultural heritage.

Stretching back centuries, the history of Cambodian art spans many mediums which includes symbolic artifacts as well as textiles, stone-carving and wat murals. Beginning in the mid-20th century, a tradition of modern art began in Cambodia, though in the later 20th century both traditional and modern arts declined for several reasons, including the killing of artists by the Khmer Rouge.

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Some photos of Robert Pho working on his brother Andy. This is the beginning of a full body suit tattoo which will be sure to please. 

 

The height of Khmer art occurred during the Angkor period; much of the era’s stone carving and architecture survives to the present. In pre-colonial Cambodia, art and crafts were generally produced either by rural non-specialists for practical use or by skilled artists producing works for the Royal Palace. In modern Cambodia, many artistic traditions entered a period of decline or even ceased to be practiced, but the country has experienced a recent artistic revival as the tourist market has increased and governments and NGOs have contributed to the preservation of Cambodian culture.

To continue the tradition of this history and art, Khmer tattoos of this nature also happens to be a specialty art here at Skin Design Tattoos. While our founder Robert Pho, is a specialist in portraits, one of his passions are Khmer tattoos, and his ability to recreate these visual masterpieces become quite evident in the display of his work.

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Some of Robert Pho’s work. To view his full gallery and bio click here

 

Whether it be black and gray tattoos, or even paintings, his passion for his heritage and cultural artifacts is one he studies with a passion. He studies the lines, mates them to the contours of your particular body parts and for over 20 years, his dedication to the art has become world-renowned and his artistry is one which is defined as art for “those in the know.”

Void of mainstream commercialism and ad hype, Robert Pho has become a gem for those who know of his work. With a current waiting list of roughly 6-months his clientele spans all across the world and his work is one which is easily appreciated and respected.

 

HIDEN AGENDA: WHAT'S BEHIND THE DOOR?

Flask and The Press is an unconventional duo that upends the traditional speakeasy concept: an intimate contemporary lounge concealed behind the facade of a cheery, sandwich shop. Together, they’re a juxtaposition of light and dark, elegance and funkyness, personal and playful.

Aiming to launch a speakeasy in the heart of Shanghai’s former French Concession, renown mixologists & their passionate partners commissioned the development of the concept, location scouting and its space design.

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Hidden behind the Coca-Cola vending machine is liquid heaven. 

Considering that Shanghai has already seen its fair share of hidden speakeasy-themed bars and lounges we decided to build suspense and break it in an entirely unexpected fashion. In order to maximise impact, we would need to execute the project in a fundamentally different, distinct way, building expectations and genuine surprise by creating contradictory, anachronistic aesthetics.

As a result, we created The Press, a colourful sandwich shop. At first glance, The traditional diner setting of The Press looks immediately familiar to passerby, but a number of edgier, more contemporary details call for a second look: the smooth, finished countertops in colourful  shades, neon lighting strips and polished minimalism of the furnishings set against unfinished walls, rough concrete walls and floors, plus a dramatic, asymmetrical drop ceiling create an unconventional scene that inspires curiosity in the space. The centrepiece of the room is a vintage Coca-Cola vending machine, which is split vertically to swing open and reveal the entrance to Flask. 

 

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Stepping into the tunnel between The Press and Flask, the visitor experiences an extreme contrast in environment. The fun, lighthearted feel, the bright colours and lighting—within a few steps, these elements segue into a mysterious space with warm, muted lighting and the murmurs of bar patrons to invite further curiosity. Following the camouflage door, the patron is presented with more visual cues of the traditional speakeasy: elaborate displays of bottles of liquor, a blend of dark and dim, plus a motley crew of furniture pieces that hints at the evanescence of these establishments as they were in the past.

 

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Continuing the play on eras and expectations, we integrated a number of contemporary intrusions throughout Flask. The first of these is a striking drop ceiling: an array of angular cubes cascading towards the entrance creates a mysterious allure for guests to further explore the space. We also created two installations featuring bottles of liquor. The first is a floor-to-ceiling shelving unit standing right next to the entrance, with 25 litre whiskey bottles that has a built-in spotlight on each bottle to illuminate the amber glow of the liquid inside. The second is a wall installation featuring rows of flasks that are hidden behind a mysterious layer—like the speakeasy itself, the surfaces of these flasks are hidden, with only the outline of their shapes to give the viewer an idea of what lies beneath.

 

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The rest of the space is designed to feel private and personal. Lighting is kept minimal and muted, with several base points throughout the venue each emitting a warm glow of light that bounces off one another. The most prominent of these is the copper lighting arrangement in the inside of the drop ceiling, which diffuses subtle amber light from the overhead. This light reflects off of the cascading cubes on the other end of Flask, creating an overall glowing effect that lifts the conventionally imposing feeling of low ceilings. 

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Led lights against the mirrored backdrop of the bar counter reflect the bottles on display back to the patrons, creating an illusion of depth that makes the wall seem to disappear. This slanted mirror also faces the entrance so that visitors looking straight ahead will see the flow of overhead cubes wrapping around his of her head, giving another subtle visual pull into the bar. On the far side of the venue, a large convex mirror reflects the entire bar back onto itself. 

To add to the warm, cozy feel of the venue, we created partitions in the seating area that transition with natural ease. Looking from the right side to the left of the venue, the heights of the seats and table surfaces are lowered, raised, and lowered again in increments to create a dynamic landscape within a compact, enclosed space. Similarly, the wooden floorboards parallel this fluid movement by going from dark, to light and back to darker wood. 

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ORIGINS: TIBETAN SKULL TATTOO

It comes as no surprise that Tibetan skull tattoos are a popular subject when it comes to Asian themed tattoo art. The intricacy and details found on these skulls are overwhelming, and while the carvings and decor add an element of mystique and power, they symbolize something so much more.

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Often called Kapal (a Sanskrit term which translates to skull or begging bowl), these decorative skulls are used as part of rituals in both Hindu and Buddhist Tantra. There are usually two types of Kapal, one which is a complete skull and another which is separated at half skull. The skulls were typically retrieved from sky burial sites, an ancient Tibetan burial custom in which the bodies of the deceased are dismembered and scatted in fields. Though it sounds disturbing, the ritual has deeper meaning as the pieces are scattered to “give aim to the birds.”

tibetan-skull-tattooIt is a ritual that has a great religious meaning of the ascent of the soul to be reincarnated into another circle of life. Once collected, the skulls would be specially prepared and elaborately anointed and consecrated before use. It would then be decorated with carvings, jewels of silverwork before being used as a ritual implement. In Tibetan monasteries, the kapala was used to hold dough cakes or wine, used symbolically as flesh and blood offerings to wrathful deities of Hindu India and Buddhist Tibet.

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Ornate in presentation, these historic relics are now the center stone for many elaborate tattoo pieces. They offer a visual appeal which is backed by deep roots, and now with a deeper understanding of their origins you are sure to appreciate them even more.

To read more history you can click here.

 

SDT BOOK REVIEW: TATTOO IN JAPAN

When it comes to reference, there’s still something about books that we tend to love. Maybe it’s how personal it is to flip through glossy pages bound together by a hard cover, or maybe it’s just the fact that we’re old and magazines/ books are to us what iPads and websites are to younger generations. Needless to say, magazines may be on the experiencing a down turn but hard cover books (or coffee table books) are still a valuable resource that never run out of batteries. This time around we got our hands on a release by Edition Reuss entitled,  “Traditional and Modern Styles: Tattoo in Japan”. This hard cover book is a 1st edition release, which boasts 320 pages, and at 6.4 lbs it’s good enough for a doorstop or quite possibly even a weapon.

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An inside look at the pages of “Traditional & Modern Styles: Tattoo in Japan”  |  Photos by Garret Carter

 

In this opulently illustrated title, it chronicles a variety of methods and styles, which range from old school to modern. Of particular interest to us were the neo-traditional styles of tattooing and with rich photographs and a photo journalistic feel which is uncompromising and raw, the book is more than generous.  With text in both English and German, this is a must have book for your home or studio library. Inside, there’s page after page of Japanese style tattoos, which range from the mild to wild and the body suits featured in this epic volume, are timeless and tireless pieces, which deserves the attention it gains.

 

Tattoo in Japan, is a book that deserves to occupy space in your library and it elegantly captures Japanese culture and art in a package that is deserving of its high price point. If you’re particular in the way you examine tattoos you’ll find this book a great visual piece,  which will stimulate your creativity as well as your craft. So in closing, you already know that you get what you pay for so catch a budget and break bread.