Every so often, we like to introduce CARFAC BC members and highlight the important work that they are producing around the province. This month's featured artist is Dion Kaszas.
I am a Hungarian, Metis, and Nlaka’pamux tattoo artist, painter, and cultural tattoo practitioner from Salmon Arm British Columbia, Canada who has been working on reviving Indigenous tattooing since 2012. I have been working as a professional tattoo artist since 2009 and my work has been featured in Spiritual Skin: Magical Tattoos and Scarification, Tattoo Traditions of Native North America: Ancient and Contemporary Expressions of Identity, The World Atlas of Tattoo, and highlighted in newspaper articles from the New Zealand Herald to CBC. I specialize in neo-tribal, dot work, black work, and ornamental tattooing with a special emphasis on traditional hand tattooing techniques. These include hand poke and skin stitch tattooing methods which arise from my Nlaka'pamux culture. I am engaged in the revival of my ancestors tattooing practices and assist in the revival of other nations tattooing traditions through the Earthline Tattoo Collective and the Earthline Tattoo Training Residency.
My artistic production is influenced by, focused on, or somehow related to my obsession with tattooing. Whether I am working with traditional mediums like oil, watercolour or graphite, or experimenting with mixed media collage, new media, video, or tattooing on the canvas of the human body my work speaks too, from, about or includes tattoos, tattooing or tattooed people.
The stitching, sewing, or poking of tattoos into the skin was a practice my Nlaka’pamux ancestors undertook for many reasons, including but not limited to, coming of age ceremonies, spiritual quests to find their spirit helper, or to beautify themselves. Today I stitch, poke, paint, draw, edit, and create so that the generations who come after me have a living, strong, vibrant tattooing tradition and culture informed by our teachings, our methods, and our imagery. As I work to revive my ancestral tattooing traditions I share my gifts, my talent, and my knowledge because it is my responsibility.
As a professional tattoo artist and cultural practitioner embedded in the revival of my ancestral tattooing tradition, these portraits are an extension of the ancient marks my ancestors made in their skin or on cave walls. Pictographs meant to honour and pay respect to those who have influenced or inspired me. The first group includes historical figures painted in blue. Blue for my ancestors was used to represent the sky or the upper world. As I paint these figures, captured in long forgotten photographs, I am revealing them to a new generation.
For Nlaka’pamux, red can be used to express goodness and to communicate friendship. I was only going to include Indigenous peoples who inspired me, however I realized I needed to honour non-Indigenous people as well, leaving me to question whether I had to add another colour. I concluded that to paint everyone red was making the argument that it doesn’t matter what your skin colour is; it matters what contribution you are making to this world, and if that contribution leaves this world a better place for the future, then you are worthy of being honoured.
Every canvas in this series is thirty-six inches by forty-eight inches or larger. This size speaks to the monumental influence or importance of each individual. The slow drying nature of oil paint allows me time to sculpt the character of each person. The limited monochromatic palette was inspired by a desire to include earth pigments collected from the land. I have begun adding such pigments to this series as they have been collected and processed, each ground and mixed by hand. These include a bone black made from deer bone, red and yellow ochre collected from traditional sacred sites out on the land.
Thank you for sharing, Dion.
For more on Dion Kaszas's work visit www.consumedbyink.com, and to learn more about the Earthline Tattoo Collective visit www.earthlinetattoo.com or follow along @earthlinetattoo.
Images were provided by Dion Kaszas, and used with generous permission:
Metis beadwork skin stitch tattoo.
"Holding onto Sacred Knowledge" painting by Dion Kaszas.