Tehran, Iran – A face hauntingly peering through a mirror surrounded by black. A woman with a skeleton hand protruding from her mouth. A skull with a colourful knife lodged in it.
These are not images you would normally find on display in galleries across Tehran, or anywhere else in Iran.
But a group of artists put together a display of those artworks, alongside others, as part of a private gallery dedicated to paintings done by tattoo artists.
“We wanted this art show to firstly be a wake-up call for local tattoo artists in order for them to focus more on their art, and to remind them that a good tattoo artist needs to have a strong background in art,” said Farshad Mirzaei, the chief organiser of the event.
The 28-year-old, himself a tattoo artist for almost 10 years, told Al Jazeera the event was also aimed at addressing the lingering perception by parts of society that people who have tattoos are not normal, and tattoo artists may be even worse.
“We wanted to show that tattoo artists are not criminals. They’re artists, they’re philanthropists, and they want to advance this industry in Iran just like other countries,” he said, pointing out that the proceeds from the gallery will be donated to charity.
There are no specific laws on tattoos in Iran, so they are not officially considered criminal activity.
A number of prominent Shia marjas – Islamic…