RITES OF PASSAGE Tattoo, Music and Art Festival. Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne. Fri 24 to Sun 26-04-2015.


Words Cassie Walker.
Photos Sally Townsend Photography.

On a typical grey Melbourne weekend, traffic, coffee, rain, we made it to the beautiful and historic Royal Exhibition Building located in the Carlton Gardens, following the groups of black clothed, tattoo curious fans into the hall to escape the cold and the rain and experience the iconic Rites Of Passage Tattoo, Music and Art Festival.

The line to purchase tickets snaked through the foyer before entering into the depths of the beautiful venue which is a piece of art itself. The display of motor bikes and artwork, the smell of dumplings in the air and a soundtrack of hip hop, rock and metal tunes was the perfect snap shot of the diversity of the event.

Neo-traditional was the ‘flavour of the festival’ with stand out artists Crispy Lennox of The Black Mark, Melbourne who was focused on the leg piece he was working on and seemed shy at the audience wanting to see his work, and Mimsy Gleeson and Tilly Dee who front the Trailer Trash Tattoo team from Queensland who win most creative booth with the overdose of pink and plastic flamingos.

The strong presence of female artists is to be commended and a strong show of the change in the times. Tashi Dukanovic, owner of Green Lotus and Vice President of the Tattoo Guild was waving the flag high; paying respect to traditional art and Australian culture Tan Van Den Broek of Dark Cloud Electric; and water colour favourite Mel Wink of Victims of Ink who was just as jealous of us wandering around the event of what we were of her work.

The main attractions took patience and a small battle amongst the crowds to get close to and fair enough, Rites Of Passage has taught us an opportunity like this only comes once a year. Seeing the calm focus of Japanese artist Shigenori Iwasaki of Yellow Blaze Tattoo, with his very detailed traditional Japanese style was impressive. Just watching him working was a calming relief amongst the hustle and bustle of the crowds surrounding him, his fast and gentle movement, strong posture and all with a smile on his face.

The celebrity stand out Nikko Hurtado, from Black Anchor Collective, California, who has featured on LA Ink and Ink Master, was taking a break when we visited his booth and a well deserved one at that, his visit at Rites Of Passage included, seminars and media appearances, combined with a change in climate and jet lag! This return offender to the festival has an incredible ability to capture emotion and energy in his realistic pieces.

Local legend Dean Kalcoff of Dark Cloud Electric is rightfully known around the country for soft subjects with a dark theme, the depth in his animals, yet capturing their soft character was beautiful to see in the flesh.

Originally from New Zealand but now calls Australia home, Benny Bones of Korpus Tattoo who’s fun, light hearted manner is reflected in his work; colourful and bold. To see artists like this, who are usually safe in the privacy of their hidden studios, he seemed well in his element amongst the on lookers.

With the buzzing in my ears of the machines and disinfected smell stained skin it was time to call it a day.

Rites Of Passage: Site // Facebook page // Facebook event // Instagram // Twitter.