Category Archives: Art

Tattoos. Do they age well?

I think that many people who get tattoos don’t take into consideration how styles and tastes change. I took the photo below in 1974 at the Sunbury pop festival in Victoria Australia. I’m sure that when the woman in the photo first got the tattoos she probably thought they were so cool. I bet they were the latest designs of their day and I also bet her friends egged her on with praise to get them. The trouble is, is that time moves on and style changes and flesh sags.

I wonder what she looks like now

I’ve shown this photo to various friends’ teenage children who said that they wanted to get a tat, in the hope they will see how ridiculous some things can look over time. On the same line, I can remember back in late sixties, as a young teenager, thinking to myself when I bought my first pair of Levi flared jeans that they were so classically cool that they’d never go out of fashion. The thing with flairs though, is they can be taken off easily.

I also remember back in 1980 when I was working in the carnival, one of my friends got himself drunk and a tattoo on the same night. It was a Pegasus complete with a unicorn’s horn. To make matters even lamer, the horn was crooked. When he showed it to me in the morning I offered him $200 (my weeks wage at the time), to compensate him for what he’d spent on the tat, if he’d let me scrub it out before the scab got too thick and the tattoo set. He said he liked it (he probably hadn’t even looked at it closeiy in a mirror by then) and that he wanted to keep it.

Let’s wind the years forward to 2007. I wonder if the woman in the photo (most likely in her late sixties or early seventies if she’s still alive) and the Carney still think that the indelible blurry kitsch in their skin is still so cool.

Moko (Maori face tattoo) Mask by John Collins.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been drawn to Maori design and have wanted to own some Maori sculpture. Last year My wife and I were in Auckland New Zealand on a stop over from a trip to the US and Mexico, so I thought it would be a good time to buy some Maori art.

I had foolishly assumed that buying a Maori wood carving would be simple. Firstly we went to the excellent Auckland Art Gallery to get a general feeling for the quality of traditional Maori art. After a couple of hours at the Art Gallery we went downtown and had a look in the various gift shops and galleries selling Maori carvings.

Chinese people, not born in New Zealand, who didn’t have a clue about what they were selling, owned most of the gift shops. A lot of what was presented to us was crudely carved and very expensive. To add insult to injury, the carvings, as poor as they were, were consistently handled in a very rough manner, further damaging them right before our eyes. Many of the storeowners seemed to be displaying an absolute contempt for the Maori carvings they were selling.

It can be argued that most indigenous art that is for sale, anywhere, tends to be “traditional” in that old designs are copied and there doesn’t seem to be mich room for innovation. In other words, much “native” art tends to be more about skillful craft than artistic expression.

After half a day of depressing traipsing from gift shop to gift shop I was about to give up any hope of buying any Maori art at all. Luckily we stumbled across a very small gallery called “Gallery Pacific“. The gallery’s main window had some local art glass and at first it didn’t catch our eye. Then my wife saw a beautiful Moko (Maori face tattoos) Mask by John Collins, carved from kauri that just knocked our socks off.


It was so different and so much more interesting than anything else, Maori, we had seen. Inside there were a few even grander and more expressive pieces that were way out of our price range. After much deliberation we bought the Moko mask for three times more than the budget we had allocated for such a purchase.

Cos-play-zoku in Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan

A year and a half ago I revisited Japan with my wife. I hadn’t been in Japan since 1976, so I thought it would be interesting to see how the Cos-play-zoku scene on Jingu Bashi (The bridge that leads into Meiji Jingu, a most beautiful park) in Harajuku had changed over the years.


In the mid seventies the punk scene had just started and rockabilly had been rediscovered. Which meant that those were the prevailing fashions on display on Jingu Bashi . Lots of Japanese interpretations of Elvis and Sid Vicious were strutting their stuff. I thought I’d illustrate this with some photos but when I looked into my box of mixed up slides I decided that’s a huge task for another day.

Meiji Bashi is still the place to go if you want to see people, wanting to be seen and have their pictures taken with tourists.


The more recent (mid 2005) cos-play-zoku fashion seems to be divided into three main groups. The first being a type of sleaze-punk-gothic.


The Japanese love “cute”, so one can expect a little “cuteness” to be thrown into the mix.


The second type of style one will see is a sort of pierced fetishised French shepherdess-baby doll. More Japanese cuteness gone awry.



When in Japan it’s not uncommon to come across sexualised images of pre-pubescent girls. My wife and I were shocked to see a book in an art book store in Harajuku, that consisted of nothing but drawings of pre-pubescent girls in various fetish costumes with black eyes or fat bleeding lips in provocative poses, lifting up their skirts to expose infantile crotch. Very bizarre. I can tell you one thing though, if you published something like that here in Australia you’d attract the attention of the police, quick smart. So it looks like there is a desire in some sections of the Japanese populace to conform to such tastes.


There has been a disturbing trend here in the west to sexualise children in advertising and I think the warning signs about where this leads to, are walking on the bridge into Meiji Jingu.

The third type of fashion that may be seen on Jingu Bashi is a sort of “Hello kitty” look. To me this is a more “pure” type of teen Japanese visual expression. Cute as a Kewpie doll and as colourful as a pachinko parlour whilst still being quite childish. This cartoonish style seems to be based on the manga aesthetic that was invented and developed in Japan.


Tim Allen (Australian artist)

Tim Allen (the Australian artist) is also another friend of mine. Tim paints mainly non figurative landscapes. Tim recently had a painting accepted in the Wynne Prize exhibition here in Sydney. The Wynne Prize is awarded to what the judges consider to be the best landscape painting of Australian scenery in oils or watercolours, or for the best example of figure sculpture by an Australian artist.

Tim was one of the finalists ( )

I own three works by Tim. Two drawings and one oil painting. Below is a painting by Tim that my in-laws (John and Lyn) bought as a wedding present for my wife and I.

Tim has a website if you would like to see more of his work

Mai Long

Mai Long is an artist friend of mine.

You might have seen her on TV in the Lonely Planet show about Sydney Australia. Mai’s work quite often addresses her cultural identity issuses. I own a few of Mai’s works. Here’s a some pictures of them.

Lately Mai has been making a series of paper mache dogs which you can see here if you wish

I will be aquiring a few more of Mai’s works over the next couple of months and I’ll post pictures of them here when I do. I’m tossing up about whether I get some more paintings or some sculptures.