The name of this studio perfectly describes the mission which Ivano Natale has always had for this space, which extends over 500 m² in Pozzuoli, a city right outside of Naples that has become an international benchmark for fans of black and grey. Would you like to find out what Thy Gallery means? Ivano – along with the guys in his team, Luca Postiglione and Gianluca Schiappapietra – will reveal it to you in this article.
(The full interview by M. Baleni was originally published on this issue of Tattoo Life magazine)
Hello Ivano, could you show us the way through Thy Gallery? Where are we, and why did you open a studio here?
Hello to all of you at Tattoo Life, and to those who are reading. The Thy Gallery Tattoo Studio is my first tattoo studio. It’s located in the heart of the Phlegraean Fields in Pozzuoli (Naples), close to the Solfatara volcano. I was born in Naples and I spent most of my adolescence in Pozzuoli – both cities are by the sea and known for their art – so I decided that my first studio had to be here, in the places that have inspired and influenced my art.
What kind of atmosphere did you choose for your creative home?
I wanted to create an atmosphere that would make it possible for all of us here to express ourselves not only as tattooers but also as artists, in the broader sense of the word. This is one reason why Thy Gallery has the name it does. It is, in fact, an art gallery spread out over 500 m², where you can find original paintings by Italian and international artists. It was conceived as a museum, and every artist has a room to work in which mirrors their theme and vision as tattooists. Currently our primary characteristic is black and grey work.
Did your experience in America help you organize and create your own space when you decided to open a studio?
Yeah, absolutely. I was raised in a place where there are a lot of U.S. military bases, so America had already played an important role in my life starting when I was a kid. When I was 20 I went to America, and ever since then I’ve thought of myself as a “Californian Neapolitan”, since I embody both the American work ethic and the pragmatism which is typical of folks from the south.
How many tattooists are currently in your team? Please introduce them to me.
At the moment, the artists in my team represent top-level black and grey. There’s
Riccardo Cassese, my good friend and an internationally renowned artist known for his unmistakable style. At the moment, Riccardo is working in Italy and Spain for the most part. Luca Postiglione has been with me for the longest. He’s an artist who is growing a lot at the international level, and he’s been creating important things by my side ever since his first day here at the Thy Gallery; in fact, he collaborated with the Californian Sullen brand to make a
t-shirt that sold out on our e-commerce site. Gianluca Schiappapietra is an artist with enormous potential who’s got a distinctive artistic vision. He’s an outstanding black and grey portraitist at the international level. And then we have artists like Rodriguez Overdose, Thore Sharpz, Brigante and Vincenzo Siero, who collaborate with me as guest and resident artists. They are another reason why I’m so proud of my team, where the focus is quality, first and foremost.
Now I’d like to give the floor to your team members, so they can tell us more about themselves. Hi guys, could each of you tell me why you like working at Thy Gallery?
Luca Postiglione: Hi, first of all thank you, Tattoo Life, for this interview. I’m Luca Postiglione and I specialize in realistic black and grey tattoos. The way I express myself through tattooing has deep roots, and comes from the fact that I’ve always done pencil drawings, ever since I was young. I’ve got a degree in Fine Arts and I’ve cultivated my passion on the ancient streets of Naples, which have inspired and influenced my current style. After years of hard work I came to the Thy Gallery Studios, where with the help of my two teachers – Ivano Natale and Riccardo Cassese – I’ve been able to bring out my own identity, which lies between the realistic and “fantasy” styles. I prefer the latter style, because I believe that manifesting your imagination on paper, but especially on skin, is something that’s unique and impossible to imitate.
Why do I like working at the Thy Gallery? Well, what can I say… I love this situation viscerally, I’ve been here with Ivano ever since he opened the doors of this space. The path hasn’t been easy: coming in as the youngest in the family, I’ve had to “grit my teeth and fight” for my place amongst the big names in tattooing. But I’ve managed to always remain clear and level-headed amongst the blood and ink. Over the years we’ve been able to reach both small and large goals here at the studio; as an example, we created a t-shirt in collaboration with Sullen.
The path ahead of us is still long, but we are succeeding in our intention to create a TRUE Black and Grey Family here in Naples – and beyond.
Gianluca Schiappapietra: Hello to all you Tattoo Life readers. I’m Gianluca Schiappapietra and I’m a resident artist here at the Thy Gallery. I specialize in black and grey realism. My passion for drawing started as a child, it was passed down to me by my father and grandfather who make oil paintings. Ever since I attended Art School, I’ve always been fascinated by portraiture and the search for a realism that is increasingly photographic. When I applied this passion to tattooing, I immediately understood that black and grey realism was the style that represented me the best. It’s been a big challenge. Starting to work at the Thy Gallery Studios has been a fantastic opportunity. It has allowed me to be in close contact with people who I’ve looked up to in tattooing from the start: Ivano Natale and Riccardo Cassese. This place is more than just a simple tattoo studio. It’s an innovative concept, an artistic environment where I experience constant exchange and inspiration in order to improve my abilities, as I work side by side with top-quality Italian and international artists.
Ivano, you’ve also always been faithful to the black and grey style. What thematic evolutions have you had over the course of your artistic career?
My evolution has always gone hand in hand with my desire to be daring, to work on the subjects and themes presented to me and then often turn how they’re represented upside down. Every place I’ve lived has influenced and contributed to my growth, and every artist I’ve collaborated with has given me the chance to broaden my artistic vision. In fact I believe that the strength of my style stems from numerous collaborations. For me, tattooing isn’t just a job, it’s my life purpose which pushes me to always give my best. And after twenty years I’m still here studying new ideas and new techniques – with the same passion I had at the start of my artistic career.
What do you think is crucial to making your tattoos last over time? What are some details that characterize your interpretation of black and grey?
High resolution contrast is definitely a characteristic of my pieces. Often when I look at the work of other artists I try to understand whether there are aspects linked to the skin that I might not have considered, and so I experiment new ways to give images the same energy that they’ve always had over the past 10 years. The way a piece impacts the eyes of the observer is really important to me, and I believe that this has always been my greatest strength. As a consequence, over the years this characteristic of mine has given me visibility. The choice of images and composition stem from both my artistic as well as cultural backgrounds, in California and Italy.
How do you choose the artists who work with you?
The choices I make are based on the quality of their work, but I especially try to select people who, in my eyes, are tireless hard workers, serious folks who consider tattooing their mission. I try to provide a diverse offer within the studio, but in all sincerity I find it hard to work with people whose work is quite distant from black and grey. At conventions today I can see that many people still find it difficult to understand that black and grey is a style, and not just a chromatic choice. In tattoo contests, I think it’s wrong to make a Japanese, a lettering, or a tribal compete with a black and grey within the same category, it just seems crazy to me, a big step backward. Each to his own.
I’m curious: where did the name Thy Gallery come from?
Truth is, it happened almost by mistake. “Thy” comes from old English and means yours, and Gallery simply means gallery. Translated, this name best represents one of the aims of our work, which is to not only offer outstanding pieces, but also to help our clients feel like they truly belong to our “family”.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of being the owner of a tattoo studio?
Being an owner is definitely a job. The days when I was just an artist are long gone. Today, I’m much more: I’m a mentor, an entrepreneur, a studio owner, a father, a husband, and definitely a much stronger and more decisive man than I was before. One of the disadvantages to being an owner is that the people who collaborate with you don’t see you in the same light as before. I’ve always been one to offer advice, I’m a person who people have come to in order to share the joys and pains of working in the various studios I’ve spent most of my time in. As an owner, my advice isn’t received in the same way, it’s seen almost as an order or an obstacle. It’s been hard to understand how to interact with the people working by my side. On the other hand, there are never-ending days in which my business is my focus, taking second place after my kids and wife.
What are the most important tasks to being a good owner?
I’m still learning those! In general, I can say that making a lot of mistakes gives you loads of experience and tricks that help in managing a studio. Paying as much attention to expenditures as to income is one of the most important things. Having top interlocutors in every field – whether it is financial, legal, or artistic. Not being afraid to make a mistake, or to correct or substitute the people who assist us in our path. But especially trusting those who work with us, making them feel at home and not a guest. In particular, the person who has helped me and kept me motivated and committed over the years is my sister and shop manager Cecilia Natale. I don’t know what we’d do without her; she’s the best coordinator and manager I’ve ever known!