Muzah Van Tricht, 35 years old and born in Brussels, speaks English about as well as I speak Flemish, or French. Which is to say he can make do. And standing in front of one of his three shops — this one called Singulier and sitting dead center on the narrowing Rue Haute in Brussels — he does, after tossing his cig in a way that shows he doesn’t have to. He waves us inside.
All-white walls, po-mo sculptures sprouting out of the floor between classic antique motorcycles and music. Not just any music, but music from the hardcore heyday. Bad Brains. Minor Threat. Negative Approach. All ripping from the speakers as tattoo artists — heavy on the art — bend over black leather tables and the people on those tables.
It might be true that if you’ve been in one tattoo parlor you’ve been in them all. But how Van Tricht thinks about what he does makes his much less of one that you’ve seen before, and much more the one that you absolutely need to see. “I make the shops a mirror of me,” he says. And tattooing since 2005, this reluctant former butcher and son of two secretaries wants his shops to triple as art galleries, music venues and tattoo parlors.
Van Tricht pursues a muse that’s equal parts punk chaos and a sort of clean formalism.
“My shop in Fribourg [Switzerland], Jolis Voyous, is making books and has a record label,” Van Tricht says. And does piercing and runs electronic-noise music workshops for kids. It tries to catch lightning in a bottle from the creation of communities that Van Tricht came from and still feels heavily indebted to — communities where people actually push away from the laptops, video games and television, and leave the house. “If I didn’t have tattoo in my life, I’d have music,” says Van Tricht. “If I don’t have music and I don’t have tattoo, I don’t know. Maybe stay a junkie.”
“Muzah put his blood into his work,” says the tattooist he’s most clearly connected to, stylistically speaking: French polymath Jean-Luc Navette. “It’s not just a tattoo for him.” A fact made more than clear when you see the flash, shadowboxed and mounted on the walls. Dark engravings that hark back more than 100 years in both iconography and imagery. Though formally trained, Van Tricht pursues a muse that’s equal parts punk chaos and a sort of clean formalism. Dispensed with the colorful cartoonery of some of his contemporaries, Van Tricht’s work is stark, like his shops.
“I’m not a big fan so much myself of the heavy black stuff,” says music-porn critic Judge Roy Bean. “I think color makes stuff hyper-real, and I like my tattoos hyper-real. But then again I dream in black-and-white.”
A connection made by Van Tricht himself. The drawings he studies are products of dreams, and these dreams end up populating what people are having him tattoo. “They’re all different emotions, and all have different personalities — in my head, the shops and your skin.”
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