©  2016 Valeria Monis All rights reserved.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE connects the subversive art of Russian criminal tattoos with traditional blue porcelain design, uniting two opposed but equally important and influential strands of Russian art history.

In Russian prisons, tattoos serve as a unique language of symbols and the rules for reading them are passed on by oral tradition. The permanent ink on a convict’s body depicts their personal history: A thief’s tattoos are his ‘passport’, his ‘awards records’ and his ‘diploma’—they are his official documents.

IN THE CRIMINAL WORLD, A MAN WITH NO TATTOOS HAS NO STATUS.

Thus tattoos confer a criminal’s identity; they are a seal of their social position and contribute to collective memory. The motifs depicted--ranging from violence and pornography to politics and alcohol-represent the uncensored lives of the criminal classes. The illustrations they wear on their skin tells the story of their closed society, a society with its own hierarchy and social structure.

Each ceramic piece is designed, crafted and illustrated 100% handmade, incorporating illustrations taken from photographs, personal stories, and the Soviet police prison files.   Just like an original tattoo, each plate is single edition.