As you might have guessed from this site, I have an admiration for all artists but I tend to put tattoo artists on a pedestal. Tattoo artists are first and foremost “artists” who can draw and paint like the best of them. On top of that they can translate images onto skin, which is one of the most difficult mediums to draw on. Let’s not forget that there is no eraser to fix mistakes or imagine the pressure and responsibility of permanently leaving a mark on someone’s body. I only mention this because Christopher Conn Askew was initially well known for his tattoo work. He left that industry in 2006 however and somewhat went off the grid to focus on his painting.
I originally discovered Chris when I was looking into the opening of Mike Rubendall‘s tattoo shop(s) Kings Avenue Tattoo. I had been following Mike from his time at New York Adorned so was naturally interested in his new project. One of the main artists at Kings Avenue was Grez, who I knew nothing about at the time. I tried to find out some information on Grez and came across an interview he did with Last Sparrow Tattoo where he mentions Chris Conn as one of his major influences. I looked up Chris after that and have been an admirer ever since. I remember feeling slightly bummed out when I learned he was no longer tattooing, but feeling glad to have come across his amazing paintings.
From an art world perspective Chris’ work would be considered Art Nouveau. He also has an almost graphic design approach to his paintings which I love. Many of his work resemble propaganda posters, including blocked texts, ornamental designs and even his signature emblem serves to be more part of the piece rather than a sign off. His fonts are awesome using Japanese, Russian, script forms as well as serif. He has clear historical references and a european aesthetic which he fuses seamlessly with tattoo friendly elements, and I see a hint of old school Japanese graphic novel style in there as well. His mix of traditional and modern styles as well as various cultural influences is really why I relate to his art. Chris’ paintings are strange, familiar, weird, cool, sensual, bold, dark, sexy, horrible, beautiful, classic and new all at the same time.
Chris does all his work now by his imprint SekretCity International which symbolizes the secret world inside his head. He primarily focuses on his paintings and jewelry (which are totally badass). I’m not sure if he is still doing it but he did begin to take on tattoo clients for a time as well. For a long time I wanted Grez to come up with his take on Chris’ piece Maschere and get that tattooed. I do have some Grez ink on me now but it’s not that. Maybe one day I’ll be able to get some highly sought after Chris Conn ink but for now I ordered his mini-print set #2 from his site since they had 3 of my favorite pieces in there (larger versions of them were all sold out… sad face).
I had dug up some old Hi-Fructose issues few months ago to take photos of it for one of the first posts I did for this site. When I was looking through the SekretCity site today in his press section I noticed the magazine cover with Jeff Soto‘s work on it. I went through my box again since I was pretty sure that was one of the issues I had grabbed for my post. It’s funny how the universe works but I was right, and there was a Chris Conn interview in there which I had overlooked this whole time! I read it of course, and something that I agree with him 100% is the fact that I too truly enjoy my alone time and to me that is when I feel the most free.