By combining sacred geometry, erotica, and ethereal psychedelic visions, Artist Jak Nola reveals a world as unique and capturing as her own appearance portrays. Swathed in layers of tattoo, her tongue bifurcation, tattooed eyes, and scarification render her own body an art work in progress.
I catch up with Jak to talk about her art, tattoos, and how to attain a free mind.
So, Jak, you have several variations of your name, could you explain why that is?
I had wanted my name to be Jak since I was 10, I so had that legally changed, although I will constantly be changing my name for mild fun.
Tell me about your life in New Zealand.
I was born in Napier, but I’ve lived all over the south and north island. Out of all the countries I’ve traveled to, New Zealand is by far the most beautiful; the lands here are powerful.
I’m a vegan that’s been creating art since I can remember. I have played guitar for about 16 years, so music is a huge part of my life. I only play for enjoyment though. I love building things, such as tables out of drift wood, anything out of old instruments, usually guitars. And I’ve also found a passion for creating jewellery.
So, my life is generally me doing all the above while traveling. I can never keep still, I love exploring new environments as much as I can, because I’ve found that new information stimulates my creative ideas profoundly.
Can you tell me about the motivation behind your body modifications?
The motivation behind my body modifications… the human body in my eyes, in a sense, is a walking canvas, so I’d feel a fool to live this life without expressing my own in a way I find visually appealing.
Because of your striking tattoos you’re subject to a lot of positive and negative appraisal through social media. What is that like?
It appears people who tend to write negative comments, are either just bored, dealing with their own issues, or heavily indoctrinated…it’s easy to attack people behind a screen, but most wouldn’t do it in person… so I don’t take any of it personally. As for the positive comments, I appreciate them immensely and take them gladly to heart.
Okay, so, let’s break this down, can we can safely say you’re currently in a third permutation of a body suit?
Yup roughly third one, some areas less, some more. I started with traditional Celtic/tribal, all except one a design of my own, all terrible though! But that’s all part of it, I learnt, as with everything. Then eventually I gained a body suit and modifications rather fast, still not how I wanted to express myself. So now I’m in the process of covering everything, with a full body concept of blacks, whites and scars. A process that will take a lot of time and endurance but it’s a true vision of my body, for myself.
One thing that will stay will be my full back piece, from the top of my neck down to my ankle it says “Maybe Logic”, which is from my most influential author, Robert Anton Wilson. His words have inspired this idea of reality being perceived more in an ambiguous sense, which for me is far more fun and confusing. I think to be subjected to one ideal obviously limits the mind’s exploration of its experiences.
In saying that, I do enjoy the idea of there being a “truth” to this whole experience, but I’d imagine it to be something we couldn’t conjure up with the instrument we have for processing (human brain). Maybe. Plus, being stuck in a linguistic construct doesn’t help that exploration anyway. Many writings as such, along with psychedelics, have heavily influenced my creations.
In what way?
Pure psychedelics have widened my perceptions, given new ideas, understandings and depths to my creative expressions. I take them with respect, they are not something I would abuse. Through psychedelics I learn, love, laugh and just enjoy life as I usually do but in new ways.
And while we’re on that topic, you create art on many mediums, such as painting, jewellery and tattoos, could you tell me about each?
I’ve drawn since I was very young, along with playing music. I’m self-taught in almost everything I do. My art has transformed immensely over the years due to life experiences and psychedelics. Generally, it’s a combination of geometry and sacred symbols, or sex... as I have a passionate love/hate for it. I’m aware of the immense positive and negative aspects to it.
I started teaching myself tattooing around the age of 15, but over the years I have learnt different techniques with different artists around the world which I am grateful for. Most of my art is done on a thick paper because its best for me to travel with. I’ve been trying to do art on a canvas over the last few years but it’s much more difficult for me, it’s always worth it once I’ve finished though.
I’ve been making jewellery for a few years now, usually when I’m traveling I’ll find precious gems or pendants and make something with them. It’s very therapeutic.
With my tattoos, I like to somewhat connect with the person, and I only do tattoos that I enjoy doing. In my mind, it’s an art form, not work. I love doing mandalas and geometric designs with dots. Although I’m always keen to learn new ways of tattooing, so I have no idea where that path will take me
Written on one of your paintings is ‘At the peak of every orgasm is a truly free mind.’ Could you elaborate on this?
I’ve written this in a lot of my art, it’s one of the truest statements in my mind. When you reach the peak of an orgasm, there’s no stress, no frantic thoughts, no worries, it’s just you and that peak of bliss. A free mind from all of life’s daily, cluttered thoughts.
online store: www.etsy.com/shop.jaknola
(Abridged version published in The Conversation 03/07/2019) The Immigration Museum’s new exhibit, Our Bodies, Our Voices, Our Marks, explores the contemporary form of Polynesia’s ancient and embedded tatau alongside the equally potent tattoo tradition of Japanese irezumi. Complimenting the two photography exhibits are four installations – curated by Stanislava Pinchuk – that offer a view of tattoo beyond the limitations of tradition.
(Published in VICE 12/06/2019) With the brutal chaos of blackwork tattooist, 3Kreuze, and meticulous manipulation of pioneering body modifier, Yann Brenyak, Feris Tergo sessions are designed to explore the murky and macabre space between what unites tattoo, body modification, and BDSM.
Body modification is more visible and ubiquitous than ever before. Many have traced the Western inception of this phenomenon to the iconoclastic spirit of one individual—Fakir Musafar, and the contributions he made to pioneering extreme body modification in the 1989 publication, The Modern Primitives: An Investigation of Contemporary Adornment and ritual. This article takes a critical look at the problematic elements permeating Musafar's legacy of prescribing "primitiveness" for Western malaise.
(First Published in Skin Deep UK) Why do the media insist on repeatedly asking if tattoos have become uncool or too mainstream? I take a look at two moments in tattoo history that help to shed light on this question: the artification and commodification of tattoo.
(First published in Forever More: The New Tattoo) Whether you are a traditionalist or progressivist, Miriam represents the quintessential nature of tattooing today, where a growing number of artists from a huge variety of disciplines are learning the trade to augment their personal oeuvre, while contributing to the field of tattooing in any which way they desire.
(First published in Forever More: The New Tattoo) Upon starting, they work independently, a technique reminiscent of surrealist André Breton’s ‘exquisite corpse’, where artists collaborate while completely in the dark of their partner’s progress. They then come together, consult over the fragmented parts, and proceed to evolve the concept and aesthetic of the final fluid mosaic.
(First published in Forever More: The New Tattoo) Preceding the Tattoo Renaissance of the 70s and 80s, the political and social climate of activism throughout the 60s in the west facilitated the birth of a new, unabashed client base for tattoos. The skins of counter-culture groups like the black resistance, gay liberationists, and women’s rights advocates were adorned with tattoos embodying their identities of dissent. It is this steadfast spirit of rebelliousness—a vocal discontent with the status quo—that courses through the veins, and ink, of Indomito.
(First published in Forever More: The New Tattoo) 'Tattooing is my best friend and my worst enemy. I used to pride myself on my short and long term memory but now I literally can't remember anything about the film I avidly watched last night, but, I can tell you James' appointment in January 2019 needs extending because he wants to add a tiny dismembered leprechaun to his right arm, just below the elbow… That's fucked up.' Although, she’s quick to add, an incredibly evolutionary state of being when it comes to her tattooing.
(Published in VICE 14/11/2018) With a history purportedly stretching back into the late 1800s, The Number is one of the world's oldest gangs, maintained with an intricately complex hierarchy that spans across three factions—the 26s, 27s, and 28s. Photojournalist Luke Daniels used his friendship with one high-ranking insider to photograph members and their tattoos.
London based tattooist Eli and Polish-born tattooist Adam Curly share their respective heavy blackwork journeys: “I’ll never be same again after this—tattooing solid black is a very spiritual thing, for me anyway. It rips apart from emotions. The pain in some parts is unbelievable and leaves you speechless for days sometimes. You can feel sick, faint, or you can feel happy and blissful. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
(abridged version published in VICE, 19/03/18) JILF, a self-described nihilist and practicing dominatrix, orchestrates painful and subversive acts with her partners with the aim of eliciting trauma and embracing disgust; her partners regularly refrain, “today, I will suffer for your art.”
“One of the things I love the most is I’ll play with my partner and do things to her that evoke disgust. She’ll be covered in filth, her mouth full of tampons and blood, she’s covered in shit and her heads all wrapped up; she’s crying, and she’s distraught, and everything’s so disgusting—everything’s just out. That blows my brain.”
(Published in DAZED & CONFUSED, 13/12/17) MoMA's recent exhibition, Items: Is Fashion Modern? declared tattoo an influential item among 111 garments and accessories shaping culture and society. I speak to the L.A artist chosen to illustrate tattoo, Roxx, on the paradoxical and multifaceted nature of contemporary tattoo.
Although tattoos in the West are becoming increasingly mainstream, the pain accompanying a session usually remains something to be tolerated at best, or completely mollified through the consumption of analgesics at worst. So when people began actively seeking out the painful ritual of a Brutal Black tattoo session, I contacted them to find out more about why they chose to engage with amplified tattoo pain.
"Modern-day passion, tangible tradition, and striking creativity: trace how tattooing continues to evolve in the follow up to Forever." Read extracts from my articles featured in FOREVER MORE: The New Tattoo, including interviews with Kelly Violet, Miriam Frank, Indomito, the Brutal Black Project and Expanded Eye. Purchase discounted copies of Forever More here.
(First published in VICE 06/07/17) Respectively raised in the suburbs of the Gold Coast and Perth, the couple longed for something with more danger and glamour, so, naturally, after meeting one another they combined their hearts and skills to saturate the world with their idiosyncratic aesthetic of "demented sparkling" performance art.
(First published in INKED, issue 45) When forensic inquiry is applied to tattoos, it can assist in the identification or capture of criminals or missing persons. The Forensic Analysis of Tattoos and Ink is a pioneering work detailing the methodology of this process. This is an interview with the book's author, Dr Michelle Miranda.
Love Shakthi Om, to be launched in the first week of May, will produce limited works of art to be sold with profits donated to charity. "We strongly believe this life is about karma, sharing love, traditions, and cultures. For us, this is largely based in art."
(VICE online 25/04/17) This is one of the most brutal experiences one can imagine in the field of tattooing, where wills are either broken or solidified. This is the Brutal Black Project, and they’ll “ruin your life”.
In this second installment of the 'Interview with the Editor' series, where editors of some of the most influential tattoo publications share their two-cents, Alice Snape, editor of Things&Ink, talks about her journey as an independent publisher of a female friendly tattoo culture publication.
"I bought a load of tattoo magazines for inspiration. Needless to say none of them appealed to me, they were very much aimed at men and none of them featured tattoos that I like or would suit me and my tastes. They were also all very much geared towards men, with half naked women legs apart with barely any tattoos on the cover."
(Abridged version first published in DAZED & CONFUSED magazine, 03/03/17) Touka Voodoo has actively used body art and modification to transcend the notion of binaries.
In this first installment of the Interview with an Editor series, head honcho of Skin Deep, Sion Smith, offers advice for writers, photographers, and tattooists looking get published, while discussing life at the helm of the UK's best selling tattoo magazine.
"For writers, be original, spell things correctly (I have better things to do than watch your back), be on time, be nice to work with and don’t be a dick."
Milo's comments embracing the positives of a legal, consenting relationship between a teenage boy and older man were labelled pedophilia. So I ask three male friends to share their teenage sexual encounters with older men.
(First published in Skin Deep, issue 275. Republished in INKED, issue 45) Ahead of VICELAND’s 2017 series, Needles and Pins, Grace talks about her experiences in front of the lens, riding around LA on quad bikes with Venice Bad Boys, and what it’s like to be an ambassador for contemporary tattoo culture.
(First published in INKED, issue 45) Currently in her third permutation of a body suit, New Zealand based artist Jak Nola talks about her psychedelic erotic art, tattoos, and what an orgasm can do for the mind.
(Abridged version first Published in The Guardian, 23/11/16) Lying in a satin-lined coffin or wearing a bondage hood may help you face up to your inevitable demise. I attend the inaugural Sydney Death and Dying Festival to get a taste of what's to come.
(Published in INKED issue 42) “That was Ricky’s right above Pinky’s. That’s because Pinky’s had a hepatitis scare and the American navy had banned them from going there, so he just opened upstairs and called it Ricky’s. It was two shops but it was the same. They just liked names that had that “icky” sound and I just happened to be there at the right time.”
(VICE online, 27/09/16) "Isaac Comer was heavily tattooed including on his cock. Henry Findlay was tattooed on his chest, arms, hands, fingers, calves and from his knees to his groin 'after the Burmese manner’. Henry was a soldier, court-martialled in Burma, so presumably he got some pretty wild tatts during service." Discover a rich history of colonial stick & poke tattoos and wild convict stories with Simon Barnard, author of the new book Convict Tattoos: Marked Men and Women of Australia.
(INKED magazine, issue 39) On February 26th, I presented an exhibition of tattooed silicone hands and sheets at Melbourne's Neon Parlour. All profits from the sale of these works went to SafeSteps and WIRE, two Melbourne based organisations dedicated to providing support to women and children experiencing domestic violence.
(INKED magazine, issue 35) 'Tattooing in the Islamic Republic (dictatorship) of Iran' is the culmination of furtive correspondence with four brave Iranian tattooists who risk imprisonment and torture on a daily basis all for the sake of their art.