Working from Brooklyn’s Esteemed Saved Tattoo, Cris Cleen demonstrates a style in his art and tattooing, full of nature, narratives and eroticism, within an array of contexts and approaches. Aided by uses of anthropomorphism, pensivity and a romantic glance at the seemingly forgotten past of the western world, he is able to create with ease beautiful glimpses of a by-gone age, firmly preserved within his mind. Elegance and Simplicity are at home within his style; not to mention a passion and dedication to his practice, unmatched by many and scarce within modern tattooing.
1) Why is it important for you to explore male sexuality as well as female?
‘Cause I love the narrative of unrequited love and longing. Being vulnerable to the female element, so you have to expose yourself a bit or a lot! Most agree that the female form is artistic and an object of desire but not as much the male. Unless you’re a homosexual artist, people often see the penis in art as a juvenile stage of drawing that you dont do as an adult. The relation between the men and women in the work is more important than just putting the female body on display. I dont want it to be a study of anatomy
2) Why is the trio of black, red and white ink/paints so prevalent within your work?
I also use a blueish grey that seems to translate more as black in the photos I suppose. That is my favorite color but of course never gets noticed: it reminds me of a uniform color. so I use it uniformly. I like high contrast so that if it was filtered through squinting eyes , that you could still tell what it is. Plus with more drastic tones , each color holds up the other, making them all necessary.
3) What do you love the most about the turn of the (20th) century?
In the art sense, I like that similar to tattooing , suggestive art was a rebellion and deemed despicable. I like that artist might be prosecuted for their works.
4) What is the best thing about being an artist in Brooklyn?
I wanted to live in New York and specifically be at Saved to have a platform that would put out the work and raise the level of art I could get away with doing. I could try a lot of ideas and see how they resonate very quickly and also people being more open to new things like that. New York is the center of the world for the art that im interested in. It’s often suspect but never the less, open to anything. What more could I ask for?
5) What piece of literature would you say has inspired you the most?
Well, I wish I read more than I do which I can admit is very little but of course, Marques DE Sade. Also Leonard Michaels, but, I’m more into film so that has much more of an influence on me. Seeing the expressions with what is being said: I like that, as there isnt as much interpreting. The film draws the space and landscape it wants you to see. I know those who read hate that but I think its a more developed idea. You just dont get to change it for your own ideals. Which I like in art in general.
6) Why are snakes in particular, so re-occuring in your work?
They represent so much but most obviously, sexy and scary at the same time. More-so than any other image; the context can change around it but not the snake, which is so powerful. I wish I did more snakes.
7) When you aren’t tattooing or creating art, you are_______?
I don’t do anything besides work on tattoos and art. If you’re going to do it, you have to do it all the time. It’s too un-forgiving to be a hobby. We get covered in tattoos to constantly commit ourselves to this world; to live a certain way. I cant say I dont wonder what it would be like to be a different person or what kind of man I would be if I hadnt spent my whole adult life involved in tattooing, but im a slave to it.
8) What is so powerful in the relationship between narrative, voyeurism & sexual expression ?
There is nothing else. I think a lot of it is lost now in the current tattoo world and art in general. Everyone wants to make money, so they make what sells to people, sells to their kitchen and living room, not their desire. I got into more erotic ideas in art through the suggestive nature of western tattooing. The designs that were made to tickle the insides, arouse the heart and libido and not congratulate self affirmations like you see so much now. If I can make one stamp on this , it would be to remind people to get work on their bodies that satisfies the most decadent of your true nature. Before you see me, forget your morals. Save it for your priest.
9) Who were you last tattooed by?
I think it was Anderson here that did a not very custom job as a favour. The stigmata of the Buffalo Bill character from Silence of the Lambs. An incredible character who’s complete body dysmorphia has pulled his insides outward in hopes of becoming a worshiping female Goddess…
10) What is one thing every Gentleman should remember?
Treat yourself like a Gentlemen and others will too…eventually .