Interview: Okan Uçkun
I want to start with a classic and curiosity question; how did Kev and Jade come together? How was Expanded Eye born?
We have been a couple for many years. After graduating from art school in illustration, we worked independently in the same studio often critiquing each other whilst talking about shared ideas and passions. Our styles then began to merge which is not something we planned or forced, it happened organically which we feel is important for the aesthetic to work. That’s when Expanded Eye was born – to create art with purpose and meaning, to challenge and to experiment together and push the boundaries. This approach has allowed our work to evolve across many disciplines.
I think Expanded Eye is one of the coolest and most effective formations in this sector. What are your sources of inspiration? What feeds you?
Our source of inspiration is life itself; nature, the universe. Reading, learning, experimenting and discovering. Our curious minds and the people we meet, different cultures, music we discover, deep conversations, our surroundings/ landscapes, and ultimately each other. Our shared passions and interests feed each other. We’ve just returned from south Africa and Mozambique and are feeling very much inspired. We adore African art, patterns and music.
I know Jade makes the designs and Kev tattoos. You have been continuing this wonderful sharing for many years. How do you achieve this? Could you tell about the stages of creating a project together, the pleasures and the difficulties?
We actually make the designs together as with all the art we create everything is a collaboration of two minds. Only the execution of the tattoo itself is done by Kev individually. Our styles have fused after making art together for more than six years sometimes when looking through old sketchbooks we find it difficult to tell who drew what. We have no fixed pattern of collaborating but when beginning a new tattoo project, we start by research, and gaining a deep understanding of the story/concept whether philosophical, scientific, literary, personal etc. We often work independently to start with, sketching rough conceptual ideas. We then discuss which parts work best and then work together to evolve the concept and aesthetic of the final image. The aesthetic is more of an intuitive process. Every story we interpret presents challenges; it can be stressful and we sometimes argue but continue evolving the artwork until we are both 100% happy. Working solely from words and not from any aesthetic direction allows us the necessary creative freedom to achieve our best work. The story becomes a part of us and in turn the client has a piece of us on their skin forever. It is this human connection and bond which fascinates us and is why we take on few projects to give each client the time and energy they deserve. It is very rewarding seeing our client’s reaction upon seeing the design for the first time and are always humbled at the long distances our clients travel from and appreciate the time we share together. For us it is about the whole experience, not just the tattoo.
You have worked in different countries and cultures, and at the same time you have done great works in those countries such as sculptures and paintings in addition to the tattoo. Could you tell us about these projects?
We are very fortunate to be able to travel with our art two of our favourite passions combined! Last year we had a show in Chicago and 6 month residency in Vienna where we focussed our energies on the fine art sculptural side of our disciplines, highlighting the plight of refugees fleeing war in the middle east. We visited various refugee camps to gather first hand accounts of the horrendous and traumatic experiences these resilient humans have endured. Its important for us to use our art to raise awareness and understanding. Spending time away from making tattoos with their meticulous details and restrictive compositions and getting to work large-scale using wood and found objects is liberating and means when returning to body art, we can approach it from a fresh perspective.
We have seen many articles about the stories of you and your designs on the internet. I would like you to tell me an interesting story you remember.
We are honoured to attract many people with incredible stories to tell, making it impossible to choose just one. Sometimes people have fascinating stories whilst others have a way with words that evoke visual inspiration. We recently had a client whose sister committed suicide which was devastating; but the poetic nature and language used to describe her emotions was heartbreakingly beautiful and evocative. We love this marriage of words and images in our process and are continually amazed and privileged at how complete strangers share such intimate details of their lives with us. Through this process we learn much about the human condition; each story is so very unique and personal but at the same time the themes are universal and as humans we can relate and connect. We post online all the tattoos we create and usually (with clients permission) give a brief summary into the meaning, leaving out most of the intricate personal details. This leaving the piece open to interpretation and the layers of personal information known only to the wearer.
Who do you follow? Who are your favorite artists and tattoo artists, as well?
Some of our favourite current artists are Zio Ziegler, Remed, Hyland Mather, David Shillinglaw. All time greats – Aubrey Beardsley, Egon Schiele, Klimt, Picasso, Hannah Höch, Chirico, Käthe Kollwitz. Tattoo artists: Noon, Lionel Fahy and our dear papa Xoil. We recently got tattooed by Marius Trubisz who’s making some great work.
How do you describe Kevin and Jade? What do you do apart from all the production (painting, sculpting, tattooing)? Could you tell me about your hobbies anything else you want to mention?
When we’re not making art we are often talking about making art. We never truly switch off and always have crazy ideas bubbling away we absolutely love what we do! Music is a big part of our life and London is the perfect city to accommodate that. Festivals, finding abandoned wooden treasures on the street. Late nights and laughter. Adventures. Our many plants. Riding our bikes and the great outdoors. Stargazing. Immersing ourselves in the present moment.
World is getting strange day by day. Even, in some countries told to have been safe in the past, people now feel insecure. What do you think about this situation?
We have to remain positive even in the face of adversity and not be consumed by fear and prejudice as the media and government try to divide us. There is so much good in this beautiful world. Embrace it. Only love can conquer hate.
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