Angelique Houtkamp: Tattoo Darling

10/8/12 – Houtkamp’s Collection: Tattoo Art, Painting, Illustration and Object Design. 

The other day I was reading through a book that was purchased from the Outre Gallery in Melbourne, which featured the works of Angelique Houtkamp. Houtkamp is renowned for her unique tattoo art and her contemporary designs, which have influenced the visual culture. Tattoo Darling: The Art of Angelique Houtkamp is a recent publication, which has been released by the Outre Gallery.

Tattoo Darling is a very unique and illustrative art book, which features a range of Houtkamp’s original tattoo art. According to Cindy Hoetmer is also a visual artist who has explored different art forms such as watercolour painting, illustration, sculpture and object design. Houtkamp’s designs also features a close reference to the image of the skull, which present a unique composition between shape, tone and colour. (Hoetmer, 2007)

Some of Houtkamp’s illustrations, the portraits feature a very faint representation of the skull, which actually compliments with the style of makeup such as the eye shadow and the lipstick. Each skull may feature similarities to Mexican folk art and the sugar skulls through the actual style of the illustration, which also questions how the face is used to convey the symbology of the human skull.

Houtkamp’s designs has also initiated an investigation into the composition between the image of the skull and the female physique, which has raised questions into cultural interpretations of  death. Each design features feminine characteristics through the style of the makeup and the outfits, which also questions the symbolic representation of the skull within Houtkamp’s stylised illustrations.

Houtkamp’s Embryo Skulls and the Hallstatt Skulls. 

Houtkamp’s designs may explore popular representations of the skull within popular culture, contemporary art and digital media. Cindy Hoetmer also mentions Houtkamp’s mini skulls, which feature vibrant and decorative illustrations that are inspired by the ‘Charnel Houses’ in Austria.  I have already mentioned the ‘Hallstatt’ skulls in Austria in one of my previous posts although the European ‘charnel houses’ have become an area of interest.

Hoetmer explains that Houtkamp uses ‘coffee’ as a visual art form, which elevates the characteristics of each skull. Hoetmer quotes “The skulls look wonderful, creepy and authentic”, which perfectly summarises Houtkamp’s delicate work. The coffee definitely adds an ‘authentic’ style through the brown or yellowish undertones, which may actually convince one to believe that the skulls are actually real. (Hoetmer, 2007 p.4)

According to Christine Quigley, The Hallstatt skulls feature vibrant decorations and designs, which are stored in Charnel Houses around Austria. Names and dates are applied to the forehead of each skull, which have been discovered by anthropologists. It has been quite difficult to find information about the Hallstatt skulls, although one could argue that they do feature similarities to the Mexican skulls, which may question the iconography of the skull within a cultural and a historical context. (Quigley 2001 p.160)

Houtkamp has also applied her illustrations and designs to the shape of the skull, which contrasts with the different colours or the tones that are used for the base. In terms of the Hallstatt skulls, the skull becomes a foundation for artistic merit and self-expression through the different patterns and decorative compositions. Each skull may resonate a positive perspective of death through the colourful designs, which may relate to Mexican folk art, which also involves printing the names of those who had passed away to the forehead of the skull. Has the skull become a tombstone, which resonates the lives of those who no longer exist? (Brandes 1998 p.182 – 184)

Decorating skulls appears to be a very ancient tradition, which may have been used to familiarise one’s self with the idea of death or mortality. In the 21st century, vibrant and decorative representations of the skull are slowly emerging into the visual culture or the mainstream market. Has the skull always been used as a creative art form? (Quigley 2001, p.160)

Houtkamp’s mini skulls are one of my favourite collections from the artist and the works may reflect Houtkamp’s own response to the Hallstatt skulls. Tattoo Darling is an impressive publication, which features a range of photographs and illustrations from Houtkamp’s unique and inspiring collection.

Outre Gallery, “Angelique Houtkamp”, Outre Gallery, (Accessed 10/8/12)

Quigley, Christine. Skulls and Skeletons: Human Bone Collections and Accumulations.  North Carolina McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2001 p.160

Hoetmer, Cindy in Tattoo Darling: The Art of Angelique Houtkamp (Melbourne: Outre Gallery press, 2007) p. 4 – 5

Brandes, Stanley. “Iconography in Mexico’s Day of the Dead: Origins and Meaning.” American Society for Ethno – History 45, no. 2 (1998) p.182 – 184

Image Citations:

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