Mark Of The Orient

Opening on Friday 12th April at the Coastguard Studio is the King Ship Tattoo exhibition of contemporary Japanese motifs. Called ‘Mark Of The Orient’ with around 100 pieces of work for sale, it showcases the work and vision of Aaron Willet – owner of the Kings Ship. His style draws inspiration from ancient Japanese tattooing and culture with the exhibition pieces being created in watercolour.

Japanese tattooing has a very long history, dating back to 300bc and is influenced by folklore, mythology and traditions that make for very distinctive tattoos. Dragons are often used, and did you know there are rules as to the location of tattoos on the body? Clouds should be used above the waist as they represent the sky, waves should be used below the waist and flowers should be coordinated with an animal that is being tattooed. Meeting up with Aaron I got to see some of the exhibition paintings and chat to him about why he chose Japanese as a style that he’s known for in the tattooing world.

Having loved tattoos from his earliest days, at the age of 25 Aaron decided he wanted to have a career in this field and travelled around the world working in studios to gain experience and build up his portfolio. Heading back to his roots in Southsea, Aaron set up the Kings Ship in 2014 and said he wanted his studio to sound like a pub and not necessarily an ink studio, whilst having a connection to his surroundings. People now travel from far and wide (sometimes other countries!) to come and get tattooed by Aaron. Over the last 5 years, tattoos have become so popular and a big part of that has been down to celebrities that are in the limelight and showing people what is achievable from talented, hardworking artists.

Having gained extensive experience in the Japanese style, Aaron likes to spend time working on large pieces and has built friendships on spending hours at a time working on full bodysuits and larger pieces of artwork. Having a large piece of work really does take a lot of dedication and Aaron says that most of his clients now come from referrals.

Even from a young age Aaron was fascinated by the Japanese style of tattooing and believes it has a consistent, timeless appeal. So why the exhibition? Well, Aaron had around 30 paintings sat in a folder and wanted to do something with them. He talked to James, the owner of Coastguard, and he loved the idea of exhibiting the work. Setting himself a challenge Aaron has spent time building on his stash of work and now has 100 paintings being put on display. Even if you are not a fan of tattoos, the details and colour in Aaron’s paintings are so inspiring you must go and see them.

Having the exhibition over the 2 days, visitors can go along from 7pm on Friday, look around, meet Aaron and then have a drink. On Saturday the studio is open from 11am until 5pm with all pieces for sale on both days.

You can find out more about the exhibition here

Mark Of The Orient 

You can find Aaron and his beautiful artwork on Social Media here



By Louise O’Brien