46 Marine Parade Kingscliff
There is something a bit special happening south of the border down Kingscliff way.
Well there a lot of special things happening in this part of the cosmos known as the Caldera. The cauldron-like volcanic crater surrounding the majestic Mt Warning is brimming with mystical and creative juices, people and places. The mountain’s original name is Wollumbin, a place of cultural and traditional significance to the Bundjalung people. Steeped in mystery, history, beauty and lore.
From the shining seas of Byron to Fingal, the forests and waterfalls, Nimbin to Tamborine, lush earth and rivers from Lismore to Tweed. Yes this is some very special place. The fertile, spiritual and exquisite Northern Rivers. The Caldera.
And then there’s another side. The punks and rockers and goths, bikers and skaters that creep out of the underbelly under the cloak of darkness. Down from the mountains, out of forests, seaside and river hideaways, streets and alley-ways of Tweed Heads and coastal towns. Mohawks, dreads and skinheads. Black leather and tattoos. Hippies and hipsters. Everyday folk. Whoever they are and whatever that means.
Nestled in the main street of relatively conservative Kingscliff, opposite the surf club and the rolling waves of Wommin Bay, is a tattoo shop. Not just an ordinary tattoo shop. This one is a step, a leap, beyond anything ordinary.
At first encounter it appears to be a warped sort of art gallery and curiosity shop. And it is kinda warped and curious, in an alluringly gothic way. Absolute Tattoo is a bit of an anomaly in this otherwise (apart from tourist mayhem times) cruisy little town betwixt between the Goldie and Byron, smack-dab in the middle of paradise.
I get to have a chat with Jorgen Kaj Christensen Loberg (“call me Juan”) manager, artist, visionary and Apple engineering expert. He does everything at the shop except, um, tattoo.
He’s turned it into a mini Apple lab, computer screens glowing everywhere. But you hardly even notice them because the joint is so jam-packed with art, paintings, sculptures, furniture, photos, jewellery, books, leather works. Odd objects d’art lurking everywhere.
Pots of colourful paint line one wall beneath which lay those tortuous looking thrones from whence people are punctured, pierced and inked.
The eye darts from one unique treasure to another. Then another. Skulls embedded in the floor. Elaboratly framed mirrors and paintings. Insanely beautiful hand-made leather-bound tomes, guitar straps, cuffs. Art-nouveau, pop-surrealist, low-brow books imported from L.A. That monolithic, creepy looking door. A former Commonwealth Bank building, the massive vault door has been remodelled into an eerily rusty, Frankenstein portal into the dark nether world.
But there’s more. Juan has been inspired from his Uni days at Kingston-Upon-Thames in South-West London, where he studied fine art and sculpture.
“Over in London they have a thing called ‘The First Thursdays’. All the galleries open up and have viewings. So you can go up to like Bethnall Green and Oxford Square that have a bunch of art galleries. You can just kinda hop from one gallery to the next to the next and the next.”
“I thought, nothing is really grabbing me here. There’s free booze and you get to mingle with the people who run in the scene. The art work is captivating but it has a time-line on it. You can’t just stand there forever”.
So it’s a combination of his two great loves, art and music. As well as his natural talents with science and technology. Running out of wall space in the shop to display all the accumulating artifacts, the back yard has been taken over. The walls of adjoining buildings have become an extension of the shop/gallery, a backdrop for hanging and creating works of art. Hence the invention of “Wall Thief”. Once a month, on an unexpected Monday evening, the backyard is transformed into an ever evolving gallery, canvas, light and rock show. Local bands have been brought in to entertain. Drones hover over head in the night sky like inquisitive UFOs. Projectors flash films and images onto the walls and into peoples’ brains.
Each night has a theme. The first I attended was Girls Girls Girls featuring paintings and drawings from apprentice tattoo artists Zoe Maxwell and Siobahn Stone and Juan’s sister Coco Loberg who also creates intricate leather works.
Smoking Martha and Gramercy belted out the tunes. Eddie’s Grub House served the grub. Sailor Jerry supplied the salubrious lube. Graffiti artists gratified. The crowd entertained with their wild and weird rum-infused dance moves.
Last session in July was The Destruction of Kyan de Vere, a contemporary low-brow artist. Brissie bands Smoking Martha- they love it here- and Flangapanis provided the sound track. Food Kartel bought the eats. Coopers and good old Jerry provided the beverages. The booze flowed free. For free. Forty-four gallon drums provided the ambient and mesmerising fire-light and warmth.
And every one of the wild and wildly diverse souls gathered, provided good vibes, banter and laughter. Under the moonlight. That serious moonlight.
The most recent night show-cased photographer: Joey Bailey – Blood n Bone. His photos and films focus on the grittier side of the coast and it’s underground movements. Cooli bands Nowhere Else and The Wrath rocked the joint to pieces. German bratwurst was scoffed thanks to the Kransky Brothers and Burleigh Brewery and good old Sailor Jerry lead us all down the garden path of merriment… to wherever we were going or ended up.
I asked Juan how on earth he can afford to provide free ‘refreshments’. Truth is, the liquor companies love what’s going- down here. Especially Sailor Jerry and their links and history to the tattoo world. So the generous alcoholic donations are passed on to the surprised and jubilant patrons. And to appease the neighbours, who are all personally invited, it all wraps up by 9pm. Respect.
There are plans to expand. Bring in shipping containers that have fold down doors that can become stages then closed up and transported wherever. Two story containers to provide spaces for body-art and other endeavours. More projectors and drones to flash images and probe our brains. A skate ramp made out of old timbers. And of course while all this is going on you can get your body inked and pierced to your heart’s content and whatever you fancy screen-printed. Fancy that. There is a sister shop down south in Woolgoolga and eventually it is hoped to extend to Melbourne and the City of Angels, Los Angeles. Absolutely.
I’m looking forward to the life drawing classes, based on the Dr. Sketchy’s Anti Art School mode. The idea originated in New York in 2005 at The Lucky Cat in Brooklyn. It is a cross between traditional life drawing and new-wave cabaret. Artists drink alcohol, sketch burlesque models and play art games.
My mind imagines Paris in the early 1900’s. Bodies swathed idly and provocatively on chaise-lounges. Glistening green bottles of lurid absinthe. Heavily tasselled velvet curtains. Elegant debauchery. Divine decadence.
Is that Toulouse-Lautrec I see? Oh and there’s Vincent wearing some unusual head apparel. Pass me the absinthe, would you be so kind? Oh Sailor Jerry will do just fine. Thank you.
Next soiree is September 19
Contact Absolute Tattoo on 02 66748864
PHOTOS CREDIT: Tyson Lloyd