When you hear ‘tattoo’, you immediately think ink and body art, right? But much like military tattoos, which are elaborate, dynamic displays of lively marching bands, precision drill movements and performances, so too are the widely acclaimed works of Richard Nattoo, that immediately command your attention.
Even though he may not be manoeuvring a tattoo gun, the young paint-slinger’s creations certainly leave an indelible mark on art pundits, buyers, spectators and just about anyone who comes in contact with his collection. Suffice to say, Nattoo’s works are celebrated for vibrant palettes, flamboyant brush strokes and meticulous designs.
Nattoo was born in 1993, Spanish Town, Jamaica, to a shopkeeper and an auto mechanic. From a tender age, he’d developed an active interest in colours, textures, forms and shapes. Since then – and with the need to find a positive outlet to let loose his creative expressions, Nattoo has incubated varied influences to create his own style.
During his tenure at Ardenne High School, his art teachers would expose him to different, domestic and foreign art movements, which later provided him with a deeper understanding of local art luminaries. This epiphany would soon prod his career as a fine artist who creates works that wildly differ in theme, content, style and medium.
After he’d begun to experiment with his own style, Nattoo found his first outlet, designing sticker decals for flamboyant coaster busses that traverse the Portmore and Spanish Town routes. Having garnered accolades from within his hometown and among the bus owners and operators, his confidence had gotten a well needed boost, which further propelled his art and the evolution of his style.
For the past eight years, Nattoo has been exhibiting his works which have been featured in several exhibitions at the National Art Gallery: Jamaica Biennial (2014), Young Talent (2015), and Digital (2016) exhibitions.
During that time, he’s amassed praises for his surreal, dreamlike creations that explore human emotions and in his words – “on a raw cerebral level”. The alternate reality which he creates, are linked to existentialism and the constant search for the meaning of life. It also represents motifs that juxtapose each other such as despair and hope, fear and bravery. Nattoo brings these ideas to life through a variety of mediums including watercolour, glass, pen and ink.
If you’ve wondered where else you may go to see Nattoo’ s art, the Kingston on the Edge festival would be another great start. Nattoo has been a contributor to this art festival since 2012, with his most notable contribution being Explorations II (2015). His most recent exhibition, Lost in the Echo (2016), heightens his exploration of the motifs he generally employs. This creation of a sort of continuum, he says, serves to remind his viewers of how the chapters of a book gradually prepares the reader for climax.
Richard Nattoo is a graduate of the School of Architecture at the University of Technology, Jamaica. He uses his skills and competencies obtained during his academic life to bolster his work and he does so with a high degree of precision – which is uncommon in the local art landscape.
We delved deeper into Natoo’s passion for the arts and to learn what inspires him most:
Q. What inspires you to do art and what does art mean to you?
A. Art to me is actually breathing. I do art to understand the dynamic of my personality. The I feed the brush and the pigment with data and when it marries the paper it becomes information that I then interpret. I am inspired by my own humanity.
Q. At what age did you realise you had a love for art?
A. At age 4 when I watched a program called Pappyland. The host drew a peacock and it came to life and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Create something that comes alive.
Q. What stories do you tell through your work?
A. I tell stories of anxiety and I tell stories of a wanderer in a world trying to find himself with the help of his spirit animals.
Q. What has been the highlight of your career?
A. Getting fully sponsored for a USD$4000 residency at the Vermont studio center.
Q. Tell us about your most intricate and time consuming masterpiece.
A. Blackbird Featherbed is my masterpiece. I did it in a time when I was at my lowest. The peacock in it is the same peacock in the piece Rigor Samsa. In addition, peacocks are an ode to young Richard who was inspired by them.
Q. How has art been a form of therapy for you?
A. Art has always been a ladder for me. When I did FRAGILITY Part 1, I produced 100 pieces to help me get out of the dark place I was in, in my personal life. So art helps me to digest my feelings externally.
Q. Through your work, how do you encourage others in the creative industry?
A. I encourage creatives to be true themselves and follow their true north. Be an individual.
Q. What advice do you have for upcoming artists?
A. Keep on creating. Be consistent.
Too see more of Nattoo’s work, follow @djsinista1 on Instagram!