Russian prisoners had a secret language – tattoos.
In London the art and meanings of their tattooed language.Over the last six years the English publisher Fuel Design & Publishing have produced and published the beautiful Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Volumes I, II and III.
Now for the first time the original artworks from these popular books are exhibited
The “Russian Criminal Tattoo Exhibition” shows 120 original ink drawings by Danzig Baldaev and 16 photographic prints by Sergei Vasiliev.
This unique archive documents Russian criminals’ tattoos and their coded meanings.
Included in the collection are more than 3.000 tattoo drawings made by Danzig Baldaev during his time as a prison guard between 1948 and 1986.
Tattoos were his gateway into a secret world in which he acted as ethnographer, recording the rituals of a closed society.
The icons and tribal languages he documented are artful, distasteful, sexually explicit and provocative, reflecting as they do the lives and traditions of convicts.
Skulls, harems of naked women, medieval knights in armour, daggers sheathed in blood, cats as symbol of thieves, benign images of Christ, sweet-faced mothers and their babies, armies of tanks, a horned Stalin and more – these are the tattooed signs by which the people of this hidden world mark and identify themselves.
The accompanying photographs by Sergei Vasiliev act as an important counterpart to Baldaev’s drawings, providing photographic evidence of their authenticity, and allowing us a glimpse into this compelling and extraordinary world.
In these incredible images the nameless bodies of criminals act as both a text and mirror, reflecting and preserving the ever-changing folklore of the Russian criminal underworld.
Russian Criminal Tattoo Exhibition
30 October to 28 November 2010
4 Wilkes Street, London E1 6QF (UK)
Thursday to Sunday, 11am-6pm
FUEL official website: www.fuel-design.com
- View Russian Criminal Tattoo Exhibition page
- View drawings by Danzig Baldaev