I believe tattoos are a big part of our own self-exploration, the act of getting tattooed is truly personal and sometimes helps us canalise our identity.
Graziella Andrighetto is an art and tattoo lover, delicate figures flow on her body as she explains her love for this means of expression. Her thoughts and her noncomformist view won’t surely leave you indifferent.
When did you get your first tattoo?
I was attracted by tattoo really early. I had my first tattoo done at the age of 15, down my belly: two black and red old school stars. Obviously at this young age the tattoo didn’t have a very deep meaning, I was simply really impatient to get tattooed for the first time.
But in the end I don’t think it was a bad thing, I don’t think you should regret this kind of early tattoos. It all goes alongside us throughout the years, it gets old as time passes by.
I see the body as a canvas built out of this times passing by, witnessing its flow.
I know it’s a quite generic question but..What does art mean to you?
I’ve always had a quite primal and instinctive relation with art. It has been since my childhood the most natural and simple way to express myself. I could say that it came before language itself, before words. Therefore I’ve always drawn and painted, because it’s my way to understand and somehow find (and give) answers to the world that surrounds me every time, and also to the world inside of me, my feelings and sufferings.
I quit regular school at a rather young age to study art, I simply couldn’t fit in the straight way school proposed.
Today I expand my creation on other mediums: photography, video, music… and of course my body.
Human body is a fascinating thing to me. I see my own body as an art medium in which relies my way to express myself. My taste for tattoo comes from this.
Tattoos are like open windows from my inner surface to the outside, a bridge of expression and communication, art in the most organic and intimate form.
Are you interested in a particular tattoo style or ancient culture? What can you tell me about tibetan culture?
I like different styles of tattoos, it’s kinda eclectic, but I have a preference for Art Nouveau inspired tattoo (figures and ornaments), and traditional asian styles. Sometimes for traditional tattoo art, too.
I like works based on paintings, black works, as I’m not really into colours, except maybe from deep reds.
I’m fascinated by mythology and symbols in tibetan art, its aesthetic and the figures it develops echo in my own imagination, this is the reason why I wanted my chest to be covered by one of them.
Let’s be clear: I’m not buddhist and I have no pretention to fully understand or embody the spiritual meanings and perspectives this figure has from a traditional point of view. I respect the origin of the figure but let’s say that this tattoo is a reinterpretation of it, through my body.
I don’t feel like belonging to a specific culture, religion or school, I gather inspiration from what is meaningful to me. It’s a question of correspondance between the signs and my interpretations. The rest is a question of balanced mix.
Tell me more about your tattoos and the artists you met.
The first artist I met was Ted Implanted, based in Tarbes in the south-west of France. He made the whole big sleeve project on my arm, 5 years ago. I’m really satisfied with the quality of his work, due to his consequent experience as a talented painter and illustrator, as long as a tattoo artist.
The piece is a composition made out of drawings of one of my favourite artist: Vania Zouravliov. He is a young russian illustrator who develops a fascinating oniric and morbid world, haunted by ghost-like characters, where symbolism and eroticism melt in flourishing ornamented backgrounds made of foliage, feathers, hidden animals. It’s a sensual devilish universe, an intriguingly soothing nightmare.
My other big piece is still in progress. At the moment, only the lines were made, as it requires time to complete it.
It was started in July of this year by Toulouse based artist Bertrand from Bouzille Deluxe, he was the perfect artist to make this piece.
The tattoo covers my whole torso, from above my breast to my groin. It is extracted from a mythologic tibetan painting from the 18th century. It represents an evil creature with big rolling eyes, pierced from above through its heart by an arrow, its tongue around my belly button, surrounded by clouds of smoke and lightnings.
It is my guardian, the main piece on my body, lying over the most central and vital parts of myself.
It carries a deep positive meaning, giving me strength, a reflection of what I am becoming.
On the left and the right of the creature stand two chrysanthemums, which ornament the whole thing with order, bringing a vivid elegance to the piece.
The reason for such massive pieces is that I want these tattoos to transcript the feeling that I am haunted by. Haunted by thousands of beings. My skin is the earth they live outside the way they have always lived inside, without everyone noticing. Now they can run free, they have a place of their own, this is their adventure, in peace.
Apart from this main one, there is an asian demon face on my flank done by Koopa from Corona Tattoo Bayonne, his works are mainly traditional and he is a cool guy!
What do you think about the power of tattoos and the process involving them?
I think that each and everyone gives a specific dimension to his own tattoo, more or less deepness, weight. This is why there are so many different ones, obviously. For some people, it can only be about aesthetics, for others it can be something really abstract or simple in the form but with a complex background.
For me, it’s an entire philosophy, a true strength that fills my body and mind. It helps me to become who I am, to grow old, to go on, to cure my suffering as well.
It’s a purification, but also a way to learn to love myself, to become more self-confident.
Have you ever met obstacles because of your tattoos?
I haven’t faced too many obstacles… let’s say that it didn’t interfere on the major aspects of my life.
Of course there has been some awkward moments with employers, even if I usually hide my tattoos in such situations; it’s the same everywhere (maybe more in this good old France?), but nothing shocking.
When I was younger, my family didn’t approve. At all. Why so early? Why so many tattoos? Sure I was young and kinda determined… Whatever!
I simply believe that approaching the question from a 100% positive point of view is the solution. Obstacles have no meaning if your adventures do have one. Confidence leads to acceptance. I don’t strive for approval, nothing is perfect, but every step in this direction means something.
Life is short, don’t forget it.
What do you love the most about getting tattooed?
What I love the most in the fact itself of being tattooed is to endure the pain. It might sound a bit masochistic at first, but I like the challenge it sets up on your mind.
You learn a lot about yourself and you always end up stronger.
I like the fact that this pain is part of the process. It shapes the achievement: at the end of the act you are drained of your energy, physically and mentally. The piece is done and you are relieved, it’s such a unique moment and feeling!
I also like the context. Watching the artist working, looking at the machines, the ink everywhere, looking at the art on walls around me and listening to good post-hardcore or doom, all these elements combined create an unreal and kinda strange experience. It contributes to transform the act of being tattooed into some kind of performance where you’re reduced to your most organic nature.
What is your own concept of beauty?
It’s hard to define. The wilderness, nature, animals, plants are for me the most essential source of beauty, it’s in the quietness and the pace it creates.
Beauty is in simple things life gives. In love… essentially in love, above all.
My concept of beauty goes against what is commonly admitted, just a regurgitation of what society dictates to us. As a woman I find evidences of it everyday. We are all the time confronted to this pressure, and sometimes even without being fully aware of it. It imposes models, standards, shapes, ways of being.
I profoundly hate this. I don’t like fashion, I hate this creature of today’s neo-liberal capitalist world, I simply don’t fit and I don’t want to fit. It’s not only superficial but also destructive.
Beauty starts where we stop belonging, where we free ourselves. It’s a rupture.
Can you relate to nowadays tattoo lovers?
I do… and I don’t. Nowadays, so many people are getting tattooed and it somehow creates a sense of community, a community of people sharing a common interest, therefore the problematic is not the same as it used to be. I’m conscious that the huge spread through social networks and internet in general made tattoo art become more «accepted» in some way, that it is more commonly considered as an art and not as an underground way of life.
Still, even if it’s obviously a great thing and it needs to go deeper in this way, I think that tattoo as a personal journey needs to remain an intimate process, to establish itself as an individual thing.
It’s a rupture, and even in the past when it was a sign of belonging to some communities, it was and will remain a step aside of what the body is commonly expected to be, and thus what the self is expected to be.
This is my personal point of view, but I think that points out one of the main meanings of tattoo art.
How would you explain what is a tattoo to a person who has never seen one before?
I’d say to this person that it’s simply like a painting or an engraving. But that it lasts, forever.
Don’t you have memories, dreams, nightmares? Everybody does, so do I. And so my body does.
It’s an armor made of words, whispers, hauntings: these are friends, they are mirrors.
Well, I would also say to him/her that it kinda hurts too and that it costs as well ahah!
Above all…take it seriously.