International Brussels Tattoo Convention 2011

Published: 02 April, 2012 - Featured in Skin Deep 210, April, 2012

The International Brussels Tattoo Convention is a new player on the European tattoo scene. The organiser, Kim, a Dutchman living in Brussels, worked for Henk Schiffmacher, has a great eye for the artistic side of tattooing, and this convention’s second outing can certainly be characterised as one with a great standard of tattooing.

With big names like Khan, Andy Engel, Victor Portugal, Tin Tin, Adriaan Machete, Calypso, Seth Wood and Carlos Rojas on the bill, Kim has also added a rockabilly atmosphere.

The huge venue of Tour & Taxis is located in the centre of Brussels; it’s a beautiful location with artistic qualities in itself, which, during the event, was not only enhanced by the tattoo artists but also by colourful hotrods and motorbikes as well. With top artists from across the globe, the selection process was hard this time around: “Every year has to be different, renewing. I want to show people the power of tattooing,” Kim explains. “But I do not select only on the basis of names, rather on the quality of the work; I am open to unknown artists.”

Kim points out Anabi and Agrypa from Poland, a female artist from Krakaw, who tattoos in Victor Portugal’s 9th Circle studio showing his absurdist dark style tattoos in a booth beside Miguel Ramos (Peru). Also, artists from California share a booth with each other like Christina Garcia, Alan Padilla and Carlos Rojas (Black Anchor). José Lopez is also present, and as usual, Jack Ribeiro (nowadays tattooing in Luxemburg City) and Milosch (Czech Republic) share a booth; they always travel together to conventions. Just like the Mexican artist, Adriaan Machete and his countryman, Iban (Für Immer. Berlin).

Migoii, Andy Engel and Andreas Afferni

The Vietnamese artists from Migoii travelled from their hometown of Paris to Brussels. Their entire weekend was spent tattooing a huge samurai on the back of Morgan, a Belgian customer. I follow the process by passing the booth now and then watching the tattoo come slowly alive. The work of the travelling artist, Khan (South Korea), is incredible – he currently has a guestspot at the studio of Andy Engel in Kitzingen. Bibi from Belgium shows me the portrait that Andy has tattooed on her left upper arm. “That’s me,” she says. “The tattoo is linked to the portrait of my daughter. One part Andy tattooed during the London Convention, here he finished the tattoo.” Andy shares his booth with another master in portrait art, Andreas Afferni (Novara, Italy). The face of a woman with a black tear is simply wonderful.  

Leafman, God of the dance

From Belgium, I see artists like Dan Di Mattia (Calypso), Wildtrash, Tattoo Studio Frank, Boucherie Modern, Tendre Furie, Spitfire and Body Adornments; from the Netherlands Thomas Kynst, Skin-a-matic, Schiffmacher and Veldhoen, Tattoo Mania, Inkstitution and Leslie Reesen (Mad Science). Barbara from The Hague wears a black and grey backpiece from Leslie. “Near my shoulder, you see the Leafman. In Wicca, he is the God of dancing and I am a dancer, but I found out the significance only after Leslie tattooed me.”

Mehdi (Bunker Tattoo, Breda) also tattoos in Brussels. Debbie, a fan of the Def Americans, a Johnny Cash tribute band – who play on the Sunday at the convention – shows me a sleeve of colourful flowers that Mehdi tattooed on her arm. There is much more entertainment like a lingerie fashion show with Suicide Girls Europe, and a fantastic burlesque show with female dancers from different European countries; both shows attracted much attention from the audience.

Dimitri Samohyn, Seth Wood and Dan Gold

After one of the shows, I see a most peculiar tattoo; Dimitri Samohyn from Odessa, Oekraïne, tattooed images from Red Indian portraits on the back of Evelyne from Antwerp. “I have travelled three times to Odessa,” she tells me. “You see many native American motifs with animals. The main themes are freedom, faith, strength, belief in yourself and in life. The images are based on portraits of Red Indians by a painter from Colorado, USA, Kirby Sattler.”

I see more incredible work while checking out Seth Wood, who is tattooing a cuckoo clock on the left underarm of psychiatrist Eric from Sweden; Dan Gold tattoos images of a wooden robot and Popeye the sailor; Pete Radulyke, Glasgow, tattoos a Chinese goddess of mercy backpiece on Pole, Magdalena,who enters it in Saturday’s Best of Day category, just like Patrick who had an amazing tattoo from Jim Sylvia (Unbreakable Tattoo, USA) – two fish with fishbones above both his knees symbolizing life and death. Jorre (Glorybound, Antwerp) wins Saturday’s Best Chestpiece with a tattoo full of zombies; Mr.Greg (Rock & Roll Tattoo Studio, Edinburgh) wins Best American/ Old School and Best of Day with a tattoo of an oil-lamp. Alex Wuillot (Le Main Blue, Belgium) wins Sunday’s Best Color; José Lopez Best Black and Grey; and Best of Sunday is for the beautiful skull tattooed by Kostas, Dirty Roses (Greece). Eva (Candy Cane/ Lady Luck, Netherlands) wins Best of Show with a tattoo on her left underarm. The tattoo is made by Crispy Lennox, an Australian artist who tattoos in London. “It’s a mix of new traditional and realism,” Eva tells me. “I am fascinated by the women with black tears of Crispy; you can see a snake, my Chinese sign, and an apple, is appropriate because of my name.”

Next year there are plans to make the convention even bigger and with a change of focus – not rockabilly, but old school!

The City Itself

Brussels is the home of Impressionist painters like Anna Boch from the Artist Group Les XX. The city is also a capital of the comic strip; some treasured Belgian characters are Lucky Luke, Tintin, Cubitus, Gaston Lagaffe and Marsupilami. Throughout the city, walls are painted with large motifs of comic book characters. The totality of all these mural paintings is known as the Brussels’ Comic Book Route. Also, the interiors of some Metro stations are designed by artists. The Belgian Comics Museum combines two artistic leitmotifs of Brussels, being a museum devoted to Belgian comic strips, housed in the former Waucquez department store, designed by Victor Horta in the Art Nouveau style.


Text: Rik Van Boekel; Photography: Cindy Frey