Shay Bredimus’ Tremendous Truth “Cartomancy”
By Evan Senn
Photos of Shay Bredimus – Cartomancy
Shay Bredimus’ Tremendous Truth “Cartomancy” explores the art of divination through tattoo ink.
Walking in to a bright white room, reminiscent of a contemporary cathedral, you feel compelled to bow before your altar, pray to the gods and beg for good fortune. Surrounded by peering eyes and thirsty mouths, you feel the larger energy of the souls stuck behind glass, aching to shatter the ghostly glass cage and penetrate your very being. Unaware of what the fortunes have in store for you, a wave of unease sweeps across you as you contemplate your fate in front of the many destined fortunes. The power is relentless and the haunting energy is boundless, even behind glass.
“Cartomancy” at Koplin Del Rio Gallery is an exhibition of re-imagined fortune-telling cards, suspended in shining black altar-like frames, built into fortitude of energy and life. Images of young women bound by their one omen hang all around this cathedral-like exhibition space. Each piece represents a fortune-created in tattoo ink and wax crayon, these works on drafting film create atmospheric personifications of the fortunistic ideas. The exhibition is only a part of the larger series, 30 works of the total 72. The artist, Shay Bredimus is a well known tattoo artist in Los Angeles, and is constantly capturing people’s attention with his gorgeously rendered brush drawings made in ink. He exhibits all over the Southern California art scene, and tattoos out of Kari Barba’s Outer Limits Tattoo studio which lives in the oldest tattoo parlor in the United States.
Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Bredimus spent his youth studying the great masters of art, and you can see his adoration for art history and traditional techniques in all his work, but especially in this new series. He began tattooing at the young age of 14, but began drawing and painting way before that. A troubled youth, Bredimus found himself through his art practice, and though his severe brain trauma from his childhood hindered his progress in communication and in schooling early on, his artistic talents never ceased to amaze. A natural genius in rendering and artistic expression, his tattoo art resembles his paintings almost identically. Though sometimes he must act as a hired gun, giving clients their dream come true, much of his work is cohesive with his larger brand as an artist, and can be spotted a mile away.
“Cartomancy” is Bredimus’ third solo exhibition at Koplin Del Rio, and proves to be the largest single body of work he has attempted to date. The body of work clearly references his strong influence in tattoo culture and imagery, calling upon iconic symbolism, historical images and popular cultural tattoo imagery as well. Dark and realistic, they float in black, begging for love and inquiry in every frame. The works range in feeling and concept, but all contain a similar thematic style. The faces stuck inside each fortune are photorealistic, as if snapshots of real people caught in purgatory perfection. Some seem powerful and enraged, some seem on the brink of suicide or heartbreak, some even seem to be dripping wet with deep, dark sorrow.
While working on the Cartomancy series Bredimus’ tattoo artwork started to take a similar style, often resembling the deeply connected fortune series he poured himself into every night.
Human beings are inevitably addicted to this search, this journey-the voyage to truth. Whether in our own personal relationships, our own path in life, our uncertain future or our demise, it is our strongest desire, truths. The hunt for truth is in all of us, deeply rooted and tightly bound. Battista Seni, a 16th century oracle, created the original Seni Horoscope fortune-telling cards. Bredimus studied these cards for months before he began to research and repurpose these ideas through his own creative lens. Using models he recreated every card, every fortune completely unique to their energy and source of power.
He uses tattoo ink to paint the atmosphere in each piece, along with wax crayon to aid his rendering, combining wet and dry materials in one work of art on his opaque plastic layers. He spends nearly 30 hours per piece, no matter how small or large. With a Masters of Fine Arts degree from one of the most prestigious figurative institutions, Laguna College of Art and Design, Bredimus imbues exquisite precision in his figurative and portrait rendering. He plays with extreme contrast in his work, creating vast depth in each piece in such a way that it seems as if a melting glimpse of a dark and eerie alternate reality.
In preparing for this exhibit, Bredimus became a hermit of sorts-working days at the tattoo shop and nights in his studio, the body of grew steadily for over a year and half, and will eventually debut the full series at the Long Beach Museum of Art. This work is monumental for realistic contemporary fine art, bridging the tattoo world with that of the fine art realm, this work exists as a respected and gallant body of work in both-very rare.
Finding solace and resolution in the melancholy, Bredimus’ work is known for its ghostly qualities and dark exploration of gestural and emotive humanity. This series is unlike his normal work-soft, ethereal and evocative-it is tightly rendered, nearly stamp-like in its iconography yet almost photographic in its rendered portraiture. Though the style of his human figures and faces remains cohesive with his larger portfolio of work, the Cartomancy series reflects a kind of darker emotional edge and inferred spirituality that was unexpected. The installation alone resembles a religious space, utilizing ancient-style pediments and columns built into his frames to further perpetuate the veneration of the fortunes.
Shrouded in history and romantic mysticism, the Cartomancy series takes a contemporary glance at an ancient system of divination, regaled and respected by all, desired and worshipped by kings and queens. This fortune-telling system has been awakened after centuries of dusted rest and forgotten value. Bredimus’ re-imaginations of this truth-seeking art form are just as tremendous and unforgettable as the original system created by the Italian oracle ages ago. With timeless iconography and haunting imagery, Bredimus is able to bridge worlds and bring reverence and truth to the exhibition space in “Cartomancy.”