Under the veneer every day, a labyrinthine of darkness weaves its thread. It is omnipresent, lurking in the recesses of every nation, city, dwelling, and chamber. Shrouded in a cloak of the uncanny and the macabre, it whispers secrets from the edges of consciousness. Its allure is twisted, terrifying, magnetic, alien, yet intimately known. This is the shadow, an intrinsic companion to every soul.
First described by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, the shadow represents thoughts, memories, and impulses so dark or unsettling that they have been pushed into the subconscious, where they lay hidden from the conscious mind but no less powerful. The subconscious mind's influence on conscious thought shouldn’t be undermined. The shadow demands attention and hates to be repressed. If ignored, the shadow becomes a monster; if attended to and integrated, the shadow becomes one's greatest mentor.
“It’s better to give darkness an outlet on paper than to hide evil in yourself and give evil to people; darkness should be turned into beautiful art,” shared Russian-born tattoo artist Evgenii Panteleev in an interview with Arts Help.
Panteleev describes himself as a kind person and sees his art as an outlet to show his hidden emotions. He opened his tattoo studio in Moscow and, seven years later, moved to Los Angeles to study on a talent visa. In addition to his work as a tattoo artist, he maintains a personal art book where he expresses himself through his beautifully dark and unsettling creations, allowing his creativity to extend beyond the skin depth.
Panteleev characterizes his creative process for his art book as unusual: initial images are crafted with pen and paint on canvas, after which he digitizes his designs into Procreate. There, he manipulates them with filters and further refines them in Photoshop to attain the precise effect he envisions.
Panteleev’s designs are masterfully done and very much unnerving. The monochrome palette, with the use of shadows and undefined forms, features skeletal figures, distorted faces, eerie children, and desolate landscapes. Many of the images involve characters who are either screaming or have their mouths wide open, suggesting terror, anguish, and anger.
However, one should think twice before looking away from these nightmarish figures; they are not as different from oneself as one may think. For Panteleev, this is therapy. He creates simply because he likes to. Naturally drawn to darkness, he uses his art book as a creative outlet and a therapeutic one, where he can cathartically express—rather than repress—feelings and emotions otherwise impossible to articulate.
Panteleev’s drawings are his therapy; by putting them out in the world, they become therapy for others. His startling depictions provide viewers with a safe medium to explore their shadows as well. Each piece is a mirror, reflecting the often-unspoken fears, anxieties, and darker facets of the human psyche. These visual narratives resonate deeply with those who have tread similar emotional paths, inviting viewers on a journey of introspection that encourages the confrontation of hidden or repressed emotions. In doing so, Pantleev contributes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for Good Health and Well-Being.
Many of Panteleev’s beautifully haunting drawings ultimately adorn both his body and those of his clients as tattoos. Tattooing one's inner darkness on oneself speaks volumes; it's a bold act of acceptance, a visual integration of one's shadow, wearing it externally rather than letting it lurk inside oneself only to manifest in unhealthy and destructive behaviours.
Through hauntingly beautiful art and tattoos, he confronts the shadow, offering a lens for introspection to all. His work illuminates the unspoken fears and desires hiding in the darkness of humanity. Etched in both paper, skin, and soul, Panteleev’s creations leave the question, what might be discovered when one dares to embrace the shadows within?