Since I was very young I noticed people around me had pictures drawn on their bodies.
I noticed the trash collectors had tattoos on their forearms, legs. I noticed that naval personnel had tattoos that bore the insignia of their troop, clan, rank. I noticed tattoos on the martial arts instructors, boxing ring keepers, weightlifting coach.
As I became older, as a teenager, I noted that many people of my own age group begin to speak of tattoos in a way which confused me. I listened to attributions of getting tattoos as a right of passage, as the transition from that of boyhood into manhood, also of girlhood into womanhood.
My peers began drawing tattoos that they hoped they would one day be able to have tattooed to their bodies. They spoke in story, in song, as if they were entranced by the permanence of the symbol, the transcendence of one life state to another through the creative - the artist who drew, not on ink on paper, but that of ink on flesh.
At age 11 using a needle, indian ink and some cotton wool I decided to be the creative - on myself.
I recall the shock of the needle entering my skin, popping through the skin layer to the deeper sinew, muscle. Being right handed I marked the left hand side of my body. I plunged the needle ten times and created a dot just above my thumb on my left hand and it is still there.
One day a friend of mine, a very young man in his teens came into our lives and he had several of these "homies"...self made tattoos. His sad story of how he came to have them was as a detained juvenile, uncared for and locked up for a very minor offence.
At this time aged 15 or 16 I was already engaging in graffiti art on public property, trains, cars....any surface that would take a streak of paint. Where I could "lay up", build a piece, be seen. Our bodies soon also bore the marks of that which we "put up" all over the place.
At this age I decided to tattoo what which I was using as a tag, symbol or mark in graffiti and apply it to my body. I again, with teeth gritted used indian ink, a needle and a cotton swap created a tattoo of that tag to the top of the first digit on my left hand. It took about 20 mins to complete and I recall the exhilaration of the pain I felt as it recovered.
Since that age, in total visibility of everyone I have ever met, come in contact with, applied for jobs through, held babies with, shook hands with, drunk coffee over....everyone has had full visibility of that tattoo.
Very rarely did I get asked what it meant to me, only rather a division of those who accepted me as I was, those who noted it and did not accept me as I am.
At age 18 I decided to be the first of our peers and get a tattoo at the 'Illustrated Man' tattoo parlour next to Central Railway Station in Sydney. The buzz of the gun, the size of the tattoo and the fact I had it done on my left hand back of shoulder, bouncing off the shoulder blade sent me reeling. The tattoo took most of an hour and I stumbled home ink drunk and in shock.
Over the ensuing weeks and months many of my friends, peers and acquaintances also got tattoos. Dragons, demons, birds, snakes, love-hate across their knuckles....some with tattoos that they thoroughly regret and still express regret for to this day.
At age 19 I decided to get a tattoo on my left arm.
It is a long winding path, leading up to a castle with a belfry, bats circling on a full moon. It is unfortunately tattooed in poor green-black ink and even more stupidly I was given the gun to complete the work in an act of bravado, mirror image and stencil guided. The result is average, poorly articulated yet strongly associated with that part of my life where I did feel that somewhere out there in the world there was a castle in the sky for me.
In my early twenties I stupidly tattooed my girlfriends name on my foot, big toe last digit. That and the index finger tag are my regrets. The meaning for them both have negative associations with them, yet they are me and have always been there so now I accept them.
I am 46 years old.
I have seen many moons come and go. I have been washed ashore as a surfer riding the waves of salt water, the tides of the ocean driven by the cycles of the moon. When there is a full moon I find it very difficult to sleep. I dream vivid dreams on the full moon.
When I was out in the great central Sandy Desert, on remote beaches near Esperance in Western Australia, walking as a young child at night amongst giant fig trees, as a teenager amongst the national park at night, it was almost always on a full moon. To begin with I did not understand that my walks, my path, the patterns of what I was doing were in fact driven in some way by this availability of light.
I had a sense that the totality of that light meant it was the earth bathed in moonlight, not sunlight.
As I grew older, found myself in relationships with older women, listened to stories from different cultures about the significance of the moon, it's affect on humans, it's significance as a symbol through time and space...I began to wonder as to what and why this circle, sign, symbol meant so much to me...and what it meant to them.
So I started asking questions.
I was told by some that there is a need to pay attention to lunar activity, that the cycles of life occur cyclically, that humans are affected by the sun and moon in different ways and some profoundly so. I heard that the symbology plays out across all cultures, all creeds and transcends most other symbols that have represented deity, tribe, clan...some long gone and extinct.
Yet, enduring is the same thing that keeps us alive - the sun for what it provides us with light and the other for how it controls and returns things to a stable core....given we are between 65 and 70% water as an adult, higher as a child.
I began to notice that the sun and moon interchanged at different times, sometime with ferocity of light, sometimes almost hidden entirely. I noted that sun symbol (circle with dot in centre) and the moon symbol (circle) was the first of symbols used in pagan and wicca symbolisms. I also noted it everywhere as a representation in Christian Judaic depictions, particularly in early Byzantine paintings and stained glass windows in churches....as a choir boy.
I noted that menstrual cycles, animal behaviour, patterns of natural occurence.....all happened on the full moon, that things changed in the wax or wane of the moon and the ebb and flow of sunlight wash clear those darkest of moments in the lowest of tides, deepest of wanes in flux.
The creative depiction of the sun and moon for me are synergistic, evoke a sense for me that at times we oscillate, spin through life in cycles, circles. In good times, our moods are high yet we expect the opposite and if we are true to ourselves we are able to see the return of patterns, in cycles, in circles...in our being with others, with ourselves and most importantly in relation to the rest of the universe.
A mere speck in the totality of it all. We are it seems seemingly insignificant.
Within our vision we embrace life with two hands, we interact with objects, we grasp, release, create and destroy things with consciousness at times and unconsciousness at others. Our hands occur daily within our field of vision, are the points of expression in numerous culture as we gesticulate, ponder, probe, point.
Our hands come in contact with keys, doors, handles, steering wheels, tools and many other things. Our hands are the foreground to what we say with our eyes and our expressions as accompaniment. Our hands become animals, fingers bent, illuminated and drawn into shadow puppetry.
Today is the day where this knowledge, this knowing and this seeing becomes as a creative expression, on me, for those to see.
My expression of meaning, my personal attributions for these two ancient moons, tattooed on either of my hands, in the web between forefinger and thumb is:
"...From the cycle of one full moon to the next I will embrace life with both hands, create, be as one with my people. My people are those who see me, who accept me, who know of country, what phase of life they are in, where they are headed, able to embrace change and who grow."
Symbolically those marks bear many, many other meanings far too complex to articulate in this short piece of prose.
They will be seen and remarked on by others, always. They will be attributed to many things that I am unaware of and I am yet to learn.
Substantively they attest to their inception as front and centre in my life, prominently remind me of where I have been and provide me with a way to see forward in any given moment.
I thank Benson Gascon for being the creative who listened to my story, who honoured my wish and who in his humbling way, prayed before making his mark on my body.
My message to him in thanks was:
"....Deepest respect, an honour, great love for your work."
"....My pleasure Alex...it's an honour to be part of your story and art. I'm so glad to meet you and I am more inspired by you in my art. Thank you for your kindness and openness. Stay safe my good friend and see you next time round. God bless."