A prison film wouldn’t be a prison film without an inmate using a filed down toothbrush to shiv a fellow lag in the lunch queue, but in real life the ingenuity of the incarcerated stretches far beyond violence. Celebrated tattoo artist Scott Campbell’s work on a project on prison tattoo culture in Mexico revealed to him another side to the makeshift talents of those held there, where improvised tools are fashioned from the most unlikely materials.
In his series of ink-wash paintings, Things Get Better, Campbell recreates these clever mark-makers, designed to get around prison restrictions by cannibalising parts from other permissible equipment such as electric shavers and guitar strings. Campbell’s objects, themselves created by a seemingly simple black ink process which is extremely intricate and precise, are not practical tools, but instead a celebration of the spirit of perseverance which the Mexican prisoners shared with him. OHWOW on La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, is hosting Campbell’s work until 22nd June.