Beauty and darkness mingle in solo exhibition

Masamichi Nakatsuka is covered in tattoos and sports a multi-coloured hairstyle you could spot a mile away. The walls in his small basement apartment are blanketed in paintings he's produced over the past several months.

Masamichi Nakatsuka is covered in tattoos and sports a multi-coloured hairstyle you could spot a mile away.

The walls in his small basement apartment are blanketed in paintings he’s produced over the past several months.

The themes range from portraits of beautiful women to more somber-looking skulls.

Posters of his favourite punk bands take up the rest of the wall space.

Tomorrow night he’s presenting about 20 of his artworks in an exhibition titled Beauty in Darkness.

It’s the first time he’s ever presented his work publicly, he said.

“I’m very excited,” said 29-year-old Nakatsuka, who began painting with watercolours and oil earlier this year.

He first came to Canada at the age of 24, with a one-year working holiday visa in hand.

Living in Toronto, he took part in a culinary arts program, where he was surprised to fall in love with cooking.

“When I moved to Toronto I didn’t really want to cook, but I knew it would make it easier if I wanted to immigrate to Canada,” he said.

“Then, I just kind of fell in love with it.”

Nakatsuka had always been good at drawing but began sketching more seriously after getting his first tattoo in Toronto. It’s a tribute to one of his favourite bands, Rancid, on his left shoulder.

He brought his sketchbook to a tattoo parlor and they told him he had a good eye.

He went back home to Japan but his love for Canadian culture eventually brought him back.

Today, Nakatsuka has 11 tattoos. When asked if he planned on getting more, he answered without hesitation.

“Hell yes! I need more and more,” he said, adding he’d like to go to Germany to get his sleeves – tattoos that cover most or all of the arms – done.

Nakatsuka has been living in the Yukon for the past three years.

He moved to the territory when he realized there were a lot more jobs here than in the rest of the country, he said.

Last summer, he began tattooing friends in Whitehorse and Dawson City.

He knew he would have to branch out and learn how to do coloured tattoos if he wanted to become successful.

“A lot of people ask for coloured tattoos,” he said.

“Up until last year I was only doing black and grey ones.”

On his Facebook page there are dozens of pictures of tattoos he’s done so far.

Many of them are of skulls, but there is the occasional band logo and even Gollum from the Lord of the Rings.

Some of them have been inspired by costumes worn by Mexicans during the Day of the Dead holiday.

He prefers painting portraits because they come so naturally to him in his imagination, he said.

It only takes him a few days to finish a painting. The longest one, of a woman holding a guitar, took about six days, he said. It’s also the one he’s most proud of.

Even though Nakatsuka is focused on his paintings, he wants to open his own tattoo parlor some day.

“That’s my dream,” he said.

He attended a tattoo convention in Toronto a few months ago and took part in a seminar, after which he obtained two certificates.

His passion for cooking will also be on display at tomorrow’s opening show, where he plans on serving authentic Japanese finger foods.

The solo exhibition is taking place at Gallery 22, located just above Triple J’s Music, Tattoos and Piercing shop.

The opening will be held from 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. tomorrow night.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

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