[vimeo width=”620″ height=”400″]http://vimeo.com/31369777[/vimeo]

Ryan Hope’s debut feature, Skin, is a documentary that tests the boundaries of art and the human body, Skin is a dark, stylish examination of tattoo culture as high art.

Featuring contributions from Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and Raymond Pettibon and in association with Dasha Zhukova’s Garage Magazine, the film is a beautiful visual essay from the frontiers of contemporary British art.

This project kicked off back in May, when Ryan Hope was approached by Dasha Zhukova – philanthropist, fashion editor and partner of Britain’s most famous oligarch, Roman Abramovich. Dasha was starting a new venture, a magazine called Garage that would combine her dual passions of art and fashion in a single, unique publication. A fresh, ambitious concept was needed to mark the launch of the magazine, something that would embody the focus of Garage and get people talking.

A groundbreaking idea was devised. It was an idea that would combine art and fashion in a succinct, original statement. This idea was based around the biggest names in contemporary art working on a new kind of canvas – creating art in a way that had never been done before. The artists were Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Raymond Pettibon, Jake & Dinos Chapman and Richard Prince. The canvas was human flesh. And so the project was born. It just needed someone to capture it all on camera.

Enter Ryan Hope. As a director who regularly blurs the lines between fashion, art, and music, Ryan was a perfect fit for the project. More than this, he was the person that could take it to the next level. What began as a series of unconventional artworks soon flourished into a feature-length, documentary exploration of the project, focusing specifically on the subjects receiving the tattoos – their lives, dreams and motivations. The film itself is much more than the sum of its (rather unusual) parts. It is a visually rich, deeply immersive journey into the lives of those seeking to redefine their individuality. In the same way that the tattooist’s gun becomes an extension of the contemporary artists’ creativity, the camera in turn adds another layer to the project, becoming a further piece of this complex, indefinable project.

Beginning in London before crossing America coast to coast, Ryan followed the lives of five individuals whose bodies would become canvases for these seminal works of art. Jack, AJ, Leaf, Shauna and Conrad were five very different people, living in different parts of the world. The one thing they had in common was that their lives were about to be changed forever. Shooting on the road, Ryan left London for New York and eventually Los Angeles. On his journey he visited some of the best tattoo parlours in the business, including The Family Business in London, Kings Avenue in New York and Gold Rush in Costa Mesa, California. Here he saw the work of some of the world’s foremost contemporary artists etched on human skin by master tattoo artists Mo Coppoletta, Mike Rubendall and Lindsey Carmichael, respectively. The culmination of the trip was a photoshoot for the debut issue of Garage Magazine, fittingly conducted by renowned designer and photographer Hedi Slimane. Ryan’s journey and the resulting film were made possible by the generosity of Christie’s, the world’s leading art business.