You have to walk through darkness to get to the light: Tattooist Paul Booth

New Delhi, Dec 2 (IANS) The famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung had once commented on the dichotomy between the dark and light in spirituality, saying that true enlightenment lies in “making the darkness visible”. US tattoo artist Paul Booth is a living example of that, as he has “embraced” the darkness to find the “light” through art.

“You have to walk through darkness to get to the light. The darkness is what builds you to be strong enough to handle all light. For me, I embrace the darkness, a bit more than what I should perhaps but in the end I feel… Internal struggle is something that breeds wisdom,” Booth, who is in the capital to attend the Heartwork Tattoo Festival this weekend, told IANS in a tete-a-tete.

Booth, who has garnered an enviable reputation as a master of tattooing with over 20 years of experience and a wide roster of bands and musicians as his famed clients, is known for his depiction of the macabre and the grotesque in art.

In India, Booth, whose artistic modus operandi deals a lot with the portrayal of demons, is looking forward to learning more from the nation’s mythology.

“One of the reasons I am here is to learn more, right from source. I like to depict demons. So it would be the demons in the mythology that I am most interested in,” he said.

Unlike most foreign visitors, Booth is not just interested in visiting the Taj Mahal.

“I am really looking forward to experiencing the culture. Would like to see the metal scene here. That’s the kind of stuff I like. Tourist things are nice, like the Taj Mahal, but I like the underbelly,” he added.

Decked with intricate tattoos, Booth literally walks his talk about aesthetics and the spiritual core of his work, which may seem sinister to most. The artist believes that it is important to “face your demons in order to conquer them”.

“I feel I am pretty wise from my years. I have spent a lifetime of darkness and internal struggle that made me stronger than what I would have been otherwise,” he said.

Even though the 47-year-old artist has spent his lifetime working in a more progressive society like the US, he says that he has had his share of fighting against the cliches and stereotypes that shun people like him who depict the darker aspects of life in art.

“I think there are two kinds of people who live in the world. The people who live in denial, like the Christians who tend to run away from anything dark and try and live a life that is happy and joyous, but that’s bulls***t because it doesn’t exist,” he said.

Booth, also pondered upon the metaphysics of spirituality among humans and said it is an “inherent need”, although the darker aspects are not balanced.

“The darkness in spirituality is shunned. People attach that need for spirituality to religion and all religions shun darkness. The human element is what destroys the spirituality. Spirituality is fine, we all have it. I am spiritual in my art, so I am still spiritual, I just don’t believe in a god. That sounds like a walking contradiction, but I suppose I am,” he said.

Booth also said that the “human element” in religion has what made the “darkness shunned rather than embraced equally”.

“It could have been a whole different picture where the angels and demons co-exist. In America, it’s all about the angels and devils are bad. It’s all about control and that’s what people get influenced from. Religion makes them fearful,” he added.

The Heartwork Tattoo Festival will be held between December 4-6. It also features US-based artist Anil Gupta and Taiwanese artist Andy Shou as headliners.

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