überlin

Portrait: Matthew Gordon, Taiko Gallery

by James Glazebrook

Matthew Gordon, Taiko Gallery, Berlin

Meet Matthew Gordon, the co-owner of Taiko Gallery, a new tattoo studio and art space on Schönleinstrasse in our beloved Graefekiez.

Originally from Sydney, Matthew first landed in Berlin two years ago, after travelling to Europe with his Taiko partner Wendy Pham. They visited fellow tattoo artist Uncle Allan in Denmark, who mentioned plans to open a German outpost, and invited the Aussies to join him. Already half a world away from home, they were unphased by the last leg of a journey to a city they’d never even planned to visit. As Matthew says of his fellow countrymen, “we’re all crazy anyway!”

Matthew Gordon art space Berlin

Moving to Berlin was just the latest in a series of risky but rewarding moves for the young artist. At 19, he quit a promising career as a 3D animator, designing levels for video games and fly-throughs of skyscrapers in Dubai, and persuaded the guy who had started covering his body with ink to train him as an apprentice. Then Gordon cut his apprenticeship short to move to Melbourne, where he opened up a private studio with Wendy.

Inspired by Grime of San Francisco’s Skull and Sword, Shige of Yellow Blaze in Yokohama and local hero Owen Williams of TAMA, Matthew started carving out a niche in the tattoo world: “I don’t look at any other work or references. I draw from my head, and if it’s wrong, it’s wrong. It’s the only way to give yourself a style”. That style, which Matthew calls “open illustrated Japanese”, renders Eastern-inspired imagery in vibrant colour and (not surprisingly) perfect 3D, with dragons and snakes covered in intricate, interlocked scales that pulsate from the subject’s skin. He conservatively estimates that his forthcoming art book contains over 5,000 hand-drawn scales.

Matthew Gordon Medusa snakes sketch

The desire to be different that informs Matthew’s work is also shaping the shopfront that he single-handedly renovated from a water-damaged, nicotine-stained Fahrschule into a beautiful, white-walled, multidisciplinary space. “We’re trying to create something different, that’s not just a little hole-in-the-wall studio,” Matthew explains. Taiko Gallery  is “more about the art, and less about making a million dollars,” serving as an exhibition space for the founders’ paintings, and a venue for life drawing classes and other creative events. Above all, it is “a positive place”.

Matthew Gordon art space Berlin

Unfortunately, not everyone is pleased about the latest development of this small Kreuzberg side-street, where old school Berliner haunts like the 24-hour bar Bei Schlawinchen rub up against the internationally-owned curiosity shop The Cheese Mountain Tragedy. The subject of thoughtless protests against the perceived gentrification of long-gentrified Graefekiez, Matthew finds himself cleaning spit off the gallery’s window almost every day.

But far from feeling threatened by such low-level hostility – “I’ve got a scythe in the back; I’d like to see them try” – he has been surprised by the extent to which foreigners are tolerated, if not always embraced, in Berlin. “Most of my time is spent in my own little bubble. I feel like an alien sometimes, but that’s OK. I’m in my own little world, no one really pays attention to me, and that’s fine.”

Matthew Gordon at work tattooing

“It’s definitely opened my eyes to the way that Australians deal with foreigners. If you go to Australia, and you have trouble speaking English, it’s horrible for you. People are abused to their face, and it’s just shit. If I ever go back and see that, those racists are getting told to shut the fuck up.”

Provincial attitudes aside, Matthew is optimistic about the future of Taiko Gallery and his adopted home: “Even in the two years I’ve been here, I’ve noticed more art going on and I’ve met lots of interesting people. Berlin is a great city. It’s a good place to have a new thing, one that doesn’t really exist yet. In five years, you’ll have built a reputation, with expats and Germans alike.” Put simply: “Being able to see Berlin grow is cool.”

Matthew’s book of snake illustrations, the Compendium Vipera, is now available via Illustrated Monthly.

Taiko Gallery, Schönleinstrasse, Berlin

Taiko Gallery, Schönleinstrasse, Berlin

Tattoo ink bottles

Matthew Gordon leg tattoo

Matthew Gordon tattoo sketch skull snake

Matthew Gordon Taiko Gallery paintings

Matthew Gordon animal skull painting

Matthew Gordon painting close up

Matthew Gordon self portrait close up

Matthew Gordon, co-owner Taiko Gallery in Berlin

New Tattoos

by James Glazebrook

Ever since we got our first tattoos at AKA, we’ve been itching (not literally!) to get more. No matching designs this time, though. As I’m a little more impulsive than Zoë, and a lot less concerned about what is indelibly inked onto my body, I went ahead without her for tattoos two and three. Having said that, she still plays a part in the designs – she was there at the Fischerspooner concert where we saw the neon light that was basis for the upside-down pyramid on my right arm, and she *is* the Z that now appears on my ring finger.

If you like these, and are looking for sharp tattoos with poker-straight lines, I totally recommend Ana at White Light Tattoo. I have a bunch more tattoo ideas in my head, and I’ll be getting them all done there!

Getting ink at AKA

by James Glazebrook

We’ve been meaning to get tattoos for a long time, something permanent to symbolises our love and life together. When we got married, we talked about inking the deal with something (literally) in the place of rings – but, looking at David Duchovny’s finger tatt, I’m glad we didn’t. It took a second life-changing experience to make up our minds: the move to Berlin. If you don’t care what our matching tattoos mean, skip straight to the pretty pictures of them and the place we got them – AKA Berlin – but if you do care, read on…

Moving to Berlin is (one of) the best thing(s) we’ve ever done, überlin represents the move, and now these two little squares symbolise überlin (they’re the pixelated umlauts that sit above the “u” on our logo). This blog is our memoir, our media, our Meinungen, and has put us in touch with some of the most incredible people we’ve ever met – and are yet to meet. It’s worth celebrating, and we could think of no better way to immortalise it than with indelible ink. Thanks Sarah from AKA Berlin for making it happen!

Graefekiez

by James Glazebrook

We recently asked our Facebook fans what they wanted to see more of on the blog and the top answer so far (go vote!) has been “cool things to see and do in Berlin”. Now we don’t get out much, and if we do, we don’t stray from our Kiez – but that’s OK, because the area around Graefestrasse in Kreuzberg has everything we need (except for great coffee).

I decided that a niftybobs way of introducing you to the neighbourhood would be a personalised Google Map marked up with our highlights. As well as a dangerous number of eateries (I’m writing this with a gut-full of ice cream), there are bars, Hard Wax records (which I’m claiming even though its located over the canal), an expert tattooists and – what the what? – a licorice shop??!!

So have a click around Graefekiez. Let us know if we’ve missed anything, and why not make a map of your area? We’d love to get an insider’s view on other parts of Berlin. Ciao!

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