I think Matt Shamah‘s stuff is electric. Almost too electric to believe, yet entirely copacetic. The further I delved into Matt’s body of work, the further it exceeded any civilian expectations I might’ve had. There’s no genre there, just nerve, and that’s more than enough to give us an especially indulgent taste of uncapped talent.

The color struck me in a matter of seconds- Shamah does not hesitate to explore unorthodox tones, exonerating them from heresy and compiling unusual color schemes . Mixing and pairing hues across the spectrum like a radical gaucho of the rainbow, he creates a palpitating image that teeters on the edge of animation, sometimes even spilling over and gushing down an arm or leg. In one of his tattoos, a monarch butterfly is perched on an apple half, shedding wings or petals or blood, or all three. The lemony yellow of the butterfly and chartreuse yellow- green of the apple flesh radiates. In another, a large piece of steampunk quality, a skull shines its golden eyes and flashes its silver shell, creating tints rarely seen in tattoos of that size and capacity. And yet another creation, a spider, comic like and adorable in a Jack the Pumpkin King kind of way, raises its dark yellow eyes upwards, begging you to admire its ornate coat.

I could write verses and verses about Shamah’s scarlets, his cobalts and indigos, but his shading skills are a force to be reckoned with as well. In a lighthouse piece he did, the building is positioned vertically, in the center of the chest and navel, but its light swells out in an aura of broken shadow, giving the illusion of transparency and atmosphere. Matt takes it upon himself to explore the idea of shadow and the ways the needle plays with it, realizing the full potential of a given design. This sense of risk and improvisation is particularly evident in the blood- spattered face of one of Matt’s samurais- the gore is done in bright crimson, in the skinny strands and tiny drops of a meticulous artist.

Matt is a sort of dynamo, converting the mechanics of needle and ink to a crackling creative static; to energy. With no fear of innovation and a natural attention to detail, he generates art that renders boundaries useless. Matt Shamah works out of Analog Tattoo in San Jose, California.


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