While the Tattoo World Cup was in full-swing on this lovely Spring afternoon, I preferred to take a little stroll off to Abbesses, in search of that little nugget that would delight the fans of the needle. Its name ? Bleu Noir (Black Blue), a unique space dedicated to the art of tattooing. Jeykill and Veenom, whom I met through the 9th Concept Collective, opened this art-shop in which expos, a mini-store, and a tattoo parlor are all intertwined in a surprisingly minimalist, clear and luminous interior. Their work reflects their experience in the world of graphics and their love for the ethnic, the urban and the old school, that they render unique, all in shades of black.. and blue.
J / Hello Jeykill & Veenom, could you present yourselves and tell us a bit about your respective backgrounds ? How did your meeting with tattooing happen ?
Jeykill / About ten years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to a tattoo artist who accepted to give me some basic tips about hygiene and tattooing techniques. I quickly became comfortable with this practice and I improved my tattooing techniques while working freelance as a graphic artisist, painter and illustrator. In 2009, I decided to make tattooing my principal activity and so elaborated the project for the Bleu Noir store with Veenom, who was my apprentice at the time, and himself a freelance graphic artist, one with whom I was used to collaborating.
Veenom / I met Jeykill in 2001, within the 9th Concept Collective, we did quite a few exhibitions trips and collaborations together. For quite a while he did my tattoos privately, either in our workshop or in his office. I’ve loved tattoos since I was a teenager, its the crossing of movements that inspires me - Punk, Skateboarding, Yakuzas, Skinheads, Chicanos and Parisian Apaches... Naturally, Jey is the one who taught me this practice three years ago.
J / Could you define your style, so particular and unique ?
Jeykill / I think I’ve constructed my personal style by not imposing any barriers on myself and avoiding sticking to any particular trends. I try to allow myself to mix it up as much as possible and to work from intuition.
Veenom / Traditional, figurative, classic, almost reactionary
J / When and how did Bleu Noir appear ?
Veenom / 4 years ago, we spontaneously ended up working together and found our universes to be complementary. Our shared passion for drawing and tattoos lead us to create Bleu Noir.
J / Why the choice not to use color ?
Jeykill / Its just a matter of taste, I don’t have any color tattoos because I don’t like the results, so I don’t feel like working colors onto the skin.
Veenom / I like tattoos in black, and the styles that go with them : American Old School, Prison, Irezumi, Cholo all find their similitude in a black that’s intense, solid and very present. I love its impact. Black is also the color that marries best with that strange hue of the skin, that dull «flesh» tone.
J / Jeykill, how did you end up collaborating with DC for the making of a pair of shoes ?
Jeykill / After the «Burning Ink» exhibitions, which are sponsored by DC, the brand asked a few of us from the exhibition to design a product and they asked me to work on these sneakers.
Veenom / We’re open to collaborations as long as we have complete freedom, we have worked with some heavy brands like DC, Carhartt, Nike 6.0 and Levi’s, and we don’t plan on stopping there !
J / Your tattoo parlor is also a gallery, why that choice ? Which artists do you expose ?
Jeykill / Creating an exhibition space was just the continuation of our artistic journey, which is more influenced by exhibitions of drawings or paintings than by tattoo parlors. This allows us to present our work and that of the artists that surround us. We make a maximum of 4 exhibitions a year.
Veenom / We’re proud of having exhibited our shop’s artists: Mast, Supakitch, Franck Pellegrino, but also Alëxone, Jerk45, DobRman. The Burning Ink Exhibition and Carnet de Croquis (The Sketch Journal) brought together Koralie, Ilk, Killygrind, Koa, Amandine Urruty...
J / Who are your references, sources of inspiration, admired tattoers ?
Jeykill / To keep it short I’d say Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jean Dubuffet, Thomas Hooper.
Veenom / Charles Burns, Sailor Jerry the tattooer not the rhum, Isiah Toothtaker, Solé, Crumb, Gustave Doré.
J / Tattooing is in full democratization, parlors are multiplying, is it difficult to make one’s place in the milieu ?
Jeykill / It’s true that tattoos had a sort of rebel connotation 10 years ago whereas today it covers a large public. Also, people don’t hesitate starting off with a large piece of work, they are uninhibited. I also think that we (Bleu Noir) attract a public that is more interested in street art or graphic design before becoming tattoo enthusiasts.
J / Even though this article of law didn’t directly concern you, what did you think of the possible ban of the use of colors in tattoos ?
Jeykill / That seems a bit too radical, unless colored inks are a real public health problem, which has certainely not been proven.
Veenom / Journalists relayed some information without fact-checking - nothing unusual of course. That just shows the extent of the « tattooing » phenomenon in France and the foolishness of the authorities wanting to ban everything. Ultimately, there was no ban, so why so much talk ? Is it because tattooing is becoming acceptable ?
J / Thanks for answering our questions, what are your future projects, collaborations, exhibitions ?
Jeykill / My personal exhibition at the store, with a preview reception on the 19th of June.
Veenom / Travel, paint, take a vacation with my family, take in some green..