Interview with Tel Aviv-Based Tattoo Artist, Or Kantor

Photo of Naomi Lubash
9 January 2017

Tel Aviv-based tattoo and visual artist Or Kantor, otherwise known as The Hopeless Lover, talks to us about his experiences in Israel and abroad, working in Tel Aviv and his biggest artistic influences right now.

Or Kantor spends his time between Florence, Italy, where he works for a few months of the year, and his home in Tel Aviv. He is currently working at Dynamo tattoo studio located on Bograshov Street, just a two-minute walk from some of Tel Aviv’s best beaches.

Courtesy of Or Kantor

For Or, art and creating art comes before everything: he does not limit himself to tattooing. According to him, the minute he gets home from a long day tattooing at the studio, all he wants to do is sit down with his ink, brushes, his cat Toolie, and paint until morning. I sat down with Or to ask him a few questions about his art, his influences and his experiences of working in Tel Aviv.

Courtesy of Or Kantor

How would you describe your artistic style?

In the past I have always tried to find my ‘own’ style in art, which would belong only to me. I tried many different ideas and styles but I was never quite satisfied with the results. To this day I don’t think that there is anything that I can exactly say is my ‘trademark’ because I am always trying to find new approaches and techniques, my style changes constantly.

The ideas for my work usually come straight from my feelings. I am a very emotional person and it is hard for me to ignore my emotions, this is visible in my work in random objects, which I attach a context and meaning to each one, based on my emotions and feelings at the time. I find it hard to stick to one source for my inspiration at once, so my figures and ideas can change drastically from piece to piece.

I am fascinated by traditional folklore imagery from all over the world and by old art that is connected with the mystical and mythological world. However, at the same time, I can’t ignore the beauty in modern design and style which includes a lot of sharp lines and bold, geometric shapes. I guess you could say that when I find the perfect mix between the two, am I satisfied.

Courtesy of Or Kantor

In what ways are you influenced by your surroundings and environment?

Tel Aviv is a reasonably small city, and so, much like the rest of Israel, everyone knows everyone. This is also the case in the Tel Aviv art scene, which can be nice in some ways, as there are a lot of collaborations and group events, but it can also make it hard to stand out and identify yourself as your own artist.

I guess I try to always make sure I stand out from that crowd, not in a negative way, just to try and focus on my own work. Stylistically I am definitely influenced by certain aspects of my surroundings, especially in the colors I like to use – lots of earthy browns and sandy beiges.

I also really like the architecture of the old Jaffa port. I find the crumbling arches and staircases on different levels along the cliffs stunning, and I like to use that motif a lot in my works.

Courtesy of Or Kantor

What’s your favorite medium to work in at the moment?

I’ve tried a lot of different things over the years; I always like to experiment with new mediums. I mostly paint with ink and watercolor but I also use acrylic and oil occasionally. When I was younger, one of my first jobs was making surfboards, so I still like to go over to my friend’s workshop and paint and decorate the boards.

I used to do a lot of graffiti with my friends, so I have quite a bit of experience with street art. Some of my newer projects have included leatherwork, I made some wallets and bags, taught myself, just experimenting really; I’ve been doing linoleum-cut prints lately and I’m really enjoying that at the moment.

I’ve also started a new project: I take old books, most of which I found thrown out on the street, and carve into the pages and then add my own paintings and illustrations throughout the book, and so the book forms a frame of sorts. I’m just trying things out but I’m really liking the results. Oh, and tattooing of course!

Courtesy of Or Kantor

What do you like most about working in Tel Aviv?

I love being close to the beach; the studio I work at is just up the road from a really nice one. The vibes in the summer are so nice – when its sunny and everyone is walking around, either going to or on their way back and sandy from the beach. Tel Aviv has its own grimy charm to it; I like its ugliness, there’s something really special and interesting about it.

Courtesy of Or Kantor

Which are some of your favorite artists? Any other Israeli artists or contemporaries?

I love looking at old tribal and mythological artwork; all the strange symbols really inspire me. I also like the surrealists a lot: Rene Magritte, Giorgio Di Chirico and M.C. Escher are some of my favorites. I especially like some contemporary Israeli street artists: Unga and Klone. I discovered few other contemporary artists through Instagram: Brenton See and Jon Koko. Tattoo-wise, my boss in Italy, Mattia Lotti is a big inspiration to me – his work is incredible.

Courtesy of Or Kantor

How does working in Israel compare to your experiences abroad?

Israel is a lot more laid back than Europe in general, Italy definitely isn’t very uptight either but there’s a certain informality about Israel which I like. I like how disorganized it is, you have a lot of freedom, but that can also be frustrating and stressful at times. What I like about both places is how friendly and open the people are – both Florence and Tel Aviv are really warm social places.

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