Vincent Castiglia

Published: 01 January, 2008 - Featured in Skin Deep 156, February, 2008

From humble beginnings in Brooklyn, Vincent Castiglia has worked hard to achieve global recognition in the creation of surrealism, visionary and transpersonal art. His work seeks a seamless truth within the desperation of the human condition - an attempt to decode for Castiglia himself, the absurdity of the individual human experience. And this he does from his studio, Omega Tattoo, New York City…

I was always drawn to tattoos from as far back as I can remember” says Vincent. “As for when and how it started, I was an artist, and heavily tattooed already, so from the dictates of circumstance issued naturally my pursuit of the art form. It was 1999 that the obsession became a reality, here in Brooklyn New York. I was influenced greatly by New York tattoo artist Mike Perfetto. He’s a New York legend, though very humble, and remains quite low-key, no website, no conventions, just great solid work.” It was Mike Perfetto who first applied ink to Castiglia, and continued to tattoo much of his early work. They became good friends, and as Perfetto imparted his vast knowledge of tattooing, Castiglia found himself with a trustworthy advisor and took his first tentative steps as a tattoo artist. He began by tattooing his close friends and found his way quite naturally. “There was, of course, the initial struggle with new tools, new ways of thinking,” he says, smiling. “Each aspect of which becomes more familiar with every tattoo. Luckily, I had many supportive acquaintances offering up corporeal canvas for the practice. It all worked out, they got what they wanted and were satisfied with the outcome, and I got what I needed; it was symbiotic.”

Reid is Aitchison

Vincent professes that he is self-taught, although most of his time spent away from learning how to apply ink was on the receiving end of Perfetto’s needle! Despite learning the craft without a mentor, Castiglia is an advocate of apprenticeships; “Nothing seems to beat hands-on training. An apprenticeship was not something I was able to locate at the time, but given my pre-disposition toward tattooing, I knew the tattooing was surmountable on my own, so I gave it my all.” He did, however, receive guidance from arguably some of the best in the business; Tim Reid and Guy Aitchison were both very open to sharing their ideas with the fledgling artist. “Tim Reid has to be the single most intense inspiration in my tattoo world. His work continues to push me as I watch his works develop on, and around me. After meeting Tim, my thinking changed pretty rapidly. Also, Guy Aitchison’s work completely blows me away. I’ve taken his seminar, and have been fortunate enough to get work done by Guy. He has also shared information very liberally with me, and is tremendously dedicated to the development of tattooing among newer artists.”

Education

“I attended New York City’s High of the Arts, Fiorello LaGuardia (the ‘Fame’ school). Al Pacino, one of my favourite actors, went to LaGuardia, that’s cool enough for me. I then went on to study Illustration for three years at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), NYC. I was tattooing while in college, and decided indefinitely toward the end that I was not going to apply my degree in any corporate sense, I so left school to tattoo full time.” With these illustrious establishments having featured in Castiglia’s education, it is little surprise that he has managed to harness these inner artistic faculties to their fullest extent. Celebrated for his artwork as much as his tattooing, Vincent Castiglia is an artist in the truest sense of the word. Predominantly his influences are drawn from the surrealism of Bacon and Dali, but the dominant inspiration that he freely admits drives him is the visions of HR Giger. “Giger’s work has probably been the most intense point of inspirational contact for me in my creative world” acknowledges Vincent. “The magnitude of his work speaks for itself, so I can say little in terms of the effects experienced by it outside of saying; it is a vast wellspring of inspiration for many artists and creative people alike. Giger and Carmen have been great friends to me over the past few years, and have given me the greatest honour of offering me my first show at the HR Giger Museum Gallery. I am very excited, and ever grateful.”

Specifics

“My approach is largely dictated by the specifics of the project. I tend to work dark…black and grey realistic imagery. I do a lot of projects involving human figures, portraits. I love portraits. I’m open to my client’s concepts and interested in their motives for the imagery they choose, this does help me understand what the composition and execution should look like, I feel. I love dark imagery. The human skull never seems to wear, I find it more pleasing to tattoo each time I work on one.” As one can see from his prolific portfolio, Castiglia’s tattoos and paintings blend human subjects and fantasy horror in a very unique mix that Vincent describes with great articulation and enthusiasm. “The cadaverous forms blatantly mirror an inevitable aspect of human existence (consequent non-being) and abstract the bridge (life), in an effort to evidence the symbiotic relationship between the two for the viewer. My paintings tend to beautify as well as beatify the post-mortal state as it is inevitable, and equally profound, so we may understand it not as irrevocable doom, but possibly, as the climax of all purpose, a just end, a strongly-anticipated release from the carnal turmoil that plagues all humans at their core.”

Omega & Conventions

In his native New York, Castiglia is quite at home in the relaxed atmosphere of his studio, Omega Tattoo, and prefers to ply his trade in comfort. The studio décor is suitably foreboding, and in-keeping with the overall themes of Castiglia’s creations. Whilst not adverse to a convention or two, Vincent keeps his appearances to a minimum. “I did the New York City convention this year, which was a lot of fun. I’ve also done the Toronto Convention a few times with my close friend and associate, Tim Reid of Internal Expressions. I do, however, appreciate working in more relaxed setting, however much fun conventions may be. The New York show was a great success and has generated many new, interesting clients. I sat for several interviews and photos…it was a blast. I was positioned next to Mad Science Tattoo; Leslie is a fabulous artist, and such a cool guy.”

Czeching into Europe

He’s also a good friend of Zsolt Sarkozi, one of Hungary’s greatest talents in the world of dark imagery (as featured in SD154) and was invited over to attend a convention in Prague. “I found the Czech Republic to be brimming with amazing artists. At the convention I was welcomed quite openly and invited for the following year. My friend and agent, Leslie Barany and I attended the show with the H.R. Giger Group for Giger’s guest signing at the event. The people of Prague were cordial.”

The Creator Within

Castiglia has noticed that more people are making enquiries about becoming a tattoo artist. “I’ve had more of this recently. And as much as I’d like to be setup for an apprentice situation, I just don’t have the time at this point, as I’m juggling several different art-projects beyond my tattooing, which require all of my energy. I have a full plate. I would suggest an apprenticeship with a reputable artist who concentrates in the type of work you are interested in, preferably. Then, work your ass off. And I think, what is the most fundamental element of success beyond the practical knowledge of your equipment and technique is staying true to your vision. Trust in that inerrant spirit of creation. It’s a powerful guiding force, and can be relied on, once you hone it. I think it’s very valuable to view other artists work, but staying honest about how you’re personally constituted, where your affections and affinities lie, is the key. Working with these elements, and not against them, greases the gears of the creative mechanism, and allows for the best flow of ideas. The concepts, compositions, textures, backgrounds, then give themselves over to you, instead of grinding in some contrived direction because it may seem like what is ‘happening’ right now. Trust in the Creator within.”

But does he think that an influx of new artists will affect tattooing negatively, or will it provide a creative boom? “With the commercial explosion of tattooing that is going on right now, the industry will inevitably be flooded. It would be inaccurate for me to guess in either direction whether this will benefit or harm the industry on the whole, but the art will surely develop rapidly. Modern tattooing is still young, and its allure is intensifying exponentially. It will be interesting to see where it goes within the next decade. I’m not particularly worried about any of the recent trends, but am very interested to see where they’re headed. Any imbalances or inconsistencies will naturally work themselves out, this always being the case.”

Giger's Gift

Vincent has some exciting times ahead of him with the honour of a solo exhibition at Giger’s own museum, and is bursting with optimism about his artistic future. “I’m currently working toward the completion of a new body of work for the show, the number in total as of yet is still undetermined. The exhibition will open in April of 2008. Please visit www.HRGigerMusuem.com for more information. It has been an amazing and interesting journey in the arts for me. Each day, I can just approach that next painting with more vigor and love. I would also like to thank Skin Deep, H.R. Giger & Carmen, Leslie Barany and Philipp Moore for their support.”

Vincent has also seen some of his work (both tattoos and paintings) duplicated to a very high degree of quality and he is proud to be the subject of such adulation. He is also quite happy to receive painting reproductions - these can be sent directly to him via his website www.VincentCastigliaArt.com

Credits

Text: Alex Photography: VIncent Castiglia

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Skin Deep 156 1 February 2008 156
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