A popular tag on social networks includes the art of Django Nokes in the dark art category. However we’re not convinced by such a “harsh” definition, because in his works (drawings that look like engravings), Django includes a world of inspirations that draw from his cultural background, splatter and horror movies, metal and electronic music, old postcards and a lot of himself.
Because, as he says in this interview for Tattoo Life: “I believe that art is a common good, a fundamental expressive tool which everyone should embrace”.
Django, shall we start by introducing you to our Tattoo Life readers?
Sure! My name is Django Nokes, which isn’t a pseudonym or linked to any famous western films; it’s my real name, and I come from England. I’ve lived in Italy for many years, where I’ve had the good fortune to live and work.
I believe your profile appears under the “darkart” hashtag. What’s it like to be included in this category? What characterizes your interpretation of “dark”?
In the Instagram community, the darkart tag groups amazing illustrators from all over the world who have a dark, obscure, mystical, and mysterious style, with somewhat romantic connotations as well. I believe my art can be understood from that standpoint.
What techniques do you usually use?
I use a variety of techniques, from drawing by hand to doing image editing of vintage postcards to making collages, because I really like to experiment and mix techniques without focusing on just one style.
What is your connection to tattoo art? I saw some illustrations of yours that I think are linked to tattooing.
Tattooing has definitely been a great source of inspiration for me, and it’s had an important influence on my work. As I was saying before, I really like to experiment and also explore different artistic scenarios. I have made illustrations that have been used for tattoos and have had the opportunity to collaborate with Giacomo 6dita, my friend and tattooist from Padua.
Where are you currently living and working? I know that you recently showed your work at an exhibit in Los Angeles. Could you tell me where that was, and which pieces were chosen for the exhibit?
I live and work in a small seaside town in the province of Livorno, called Castiglioncello. One part of my work takes place at my desk at home, amongst sheets of paper, pencils, and my computer. The other part is done in the laboratory I have near my home, which I also use to show my work. I had the honor of being chosen by the Darkart&craft group to participate in the “From Ash to Flame” event at the Dark Art Emporium in Los Angeles. The artists who showed their work were chosen from Instagram, and included names like Dylan XVX, Adrian Baxter, Blial Cabal, and Legerdemain. I showed 2 large pieces: “Prophet of Ruin” and “The Hunter”.
How do your pieces emerge, and what inspires you? There are some very eclectic
sparks in your pieces which seem to be ever-changing, so defining your creativity as just ‘dark’ seems a bit limiting. Would you agree?
Music and cinema have really influenced my life. Ever since I was little, I’ve been attracted by everything that has to do with the horror or splatter genre. Directors like Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Cronemberg, Raimi, and Lynch have been true pioneers for me. I listen to all kinds of music genres, but I really enjoy metal and electronic – especially with new wave influences. Dark art is just one of the many names you can use to define my works, it’s not the only one. It’s just an adjective that encompasses a given genre.
Do you have an art background?
Yeah, I attended a school in Bedford, England, and in Florence, Italy, where I was able to hone my illustration and image editing techniques. I also worked in the restoration field, and that experience taught me how to make frames for my pieces.
I think it might be difficult for an artist like you to not let yourself be influenced by people who work in a similar way as you, or by the many artists who approach you. What do you think is your distinguishing characteristic?
The great artists of the past were influenced by their contemporaries and by the artists from their past; this is a natural process. Today, the presence of social networks has highlighted this process, but I think that even if a person’s technique often looks similar to another, what distinguishes any work is the artist’s underlying intention, the meaning that originates from their experience, background, and overall vision. And you can understand this only by diving into an artist’s works and deepening your awareness of it, going beyond the superficial gaze. For me, creating my pieces has been a natural and instinctive process.
Often, maybe after watching a movie, I’ll get a new idea and spend the whole night bringing it to life.
Some of the artists from the past who have greatly influenced me include Pete Witkin, Giger, and Gustave Doré. There are definitely artists whose work resembles mine, or vice-versa, but as I was saying this is very natural, I don’t feel like I’m competing with anyone. I believe that art is a common good and a fundamental expressive tool which everyone should embrace.
Got any projects for the near future?
I just finished a series of events in September all around Italy, with exhibitions in Milan, Rome, and Padua. I’ll participate in the Florence Tattoo Convention and will go back to Los Angeles in October for a show at the Lethal Amounts Gallery.