FAULT Focus: artist Johny Dar on body-painting Tuuli Shipster (Rankin’s wife)

After deciding to pursue a career in art in addition to his existing, eponymous fashion line (DAR), American artist Johny Dar decided that the the next logical step in his career would be to bring his latest body of work to life by physically painting it on a live canvas – the body of model and actress Tuuli Shipster.

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It took Johny five years to create his work Dar the Book – a collection of intricately patterned images expressing themes of femininity, female emotional intelligence and our obsession with female nudity – and between six to 12 hours to paint a simplified version of it on to Tuuli’s body. In total he did this 12 times to create a calendar of his work, shot by renowned fashion photographer Rankin (Tuuli’s husband).

We sat down with Johny to get a deeper understanding of his creative process.

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FAULT: Where did the journey of creating Dar the Book begin?

Johny: It was a personal journey about my own issues of understanding womankind. It was a curiosity of having a better understanding of that female side of me.

You have said that “a true artist is a messenger of their inner voice”. What elements of your inner voice are in Dar the Book?

It’s my quest to undress the physical body down to its emotions and intuitions. I surprised myself with realising I could interpret what is behind what is shown in a moment.

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How difficult was it to recreate this on a human body?

Doing it on the body, I only had time to paint. I couldn’t think about what I was doing. I had to go with the intuition of the moment and I wanted to bring out the four elements of earth, water, wind and fire as well. With the experience of having a direct touch, I had to bring it out naturally, without thoughts of what looks good. It was a challenge as well because of the time restriction; I couldn’t do much else but paint. I was passionate about doing it though.

Why was Tuuli the perfect model for it?

She was very patient and very receptive, she went through an emotional journey with it too. There’s not a character that we created that didn’t already exist within her. With each of the different colours, it was embodying and reforming her personality. I wanted to show a spectrum of the rainbow and a spectrum of the emotions in a woman.

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Do you have a favourite image?

That’s hard because it’s about what colour you choose to focus on. It changes depending on your mood.

Which colour are you focussing on today?

Today I like the red woman because it’s Monday and I need all the fire possible to get me through the week. It’s also quite cold today.

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Was this your first time working with Rankin?

Yes, he was there watching during the whole process. I never specified what I was doing to him but it gave him an understanding of the character. His direction of the shoot brought it to a wider audience.

You started out as a fashion designer, is fashion something you want to explore with your artwork?

That was the beauty of working with Rankin, it gave it that fashion aspect. This has been an introduction to what I’m doing next in the project which is to create second-skin bodysuits. I’ve been developing this for a while. They’ll be very similar to what I have done with Tuuli but with more intricate designs.

What do you want people to take from the project?

Going about this style and the calendar and the other projects, it has to be able to introduce a new medium, a new way of seeing. I want it to merge inspiration across fashion, art, music… It was my hope for others to find new expressions.

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Dar the Book will be released in six volumes, the second is released now with the final volume expected in 2017. The Tuuli by Dar calendar is available to purchase now via Amazon

Words: Olivia Pinnock; Photography: Rankin