Gabriel Wolff has been telling stories with Hebrew calligraphy since he was five. When his mom took him to an exhibition about Nazi art, sometime in the 80s in Munich, he was absolutely fascinated by the lettering he saw. It took his horrified mother a while to give in to his pleas for a calligraphy set. But when she did, he started drawing letters. And hasn’t stopped since.
At the same time, though, he started playing the violin and later the viola. Perhaps it is that music could be perceived as a “serious profession”, while calligraphy would be more of a “nice little hobby”, he went on to study in a musical high school, at the Academy for Music and Dance in Jerusalem, and later at Codarts in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. For years he was playing, composing and painting, dividing his life between concerts and exhibitions, music and letters. He went on to play Tango in Buenos Aires, moving to the city when he was 30. At age 35, after his debut concert at Carnegie Hall in New York, he got off the stage, closed his viola case, and decided to dedicate his life to calligraphy only, first and foremost for tattoos.
Tattooing. What had started a decade earlier as “just another canvas” had become Gabriel’s primary means of expression. The inherent instability of the act of tattooing for Jews, expressing an identity by trespassing, created a whole new stage for what it was that made both music and calligraphy work for Gabriel: Stories. Each of his works for tattoos is a singular expression of a unique story. In sharp contrast to the mass production of the tattooing industry, Gabriel strongly believes that tattoos are first and foremost an art form, demanding just as much introspection and scrutiny as any other authentic artistic expression. That is how he treats his art. And that is how he treats those who come to him for his art.
Over the past 15 years, Gabriel has created art for well over 2000 Jews [as well as some non-Jews], collaborating with some of the greatest tattooists in the world, who continuously tattoo his art. At the same time, he keeps creating on canvas and paper, exhibiting his work all over Europe and the US, as well as Israel, Taiwan, Australia, Argentina, and Brazil.
Gabriel has been living and creating in Berlin since 2017, enjoying the quiet inspiration of lake Müggelsee and the woods around Friedrichshagen. In stark contrast to the city center of Buenos Aires, here he feels there is space for his thoughts. These trees, he says, are the trees my ancestors lived beneath. Though always a stranger, my roots are here.