Tattoo design has also come a long way from the word "Mum" encased in a heart on a bikie’s shoulder. Today, there are a bunch of prodigious tattooists who are elevating the practice to an art form. These dudes and dudettes attract clients from across the globe who willingly become walking canvases for their work.
Thomas Hooper (US)
Thomas Hooper is a multi-disciplined visual artist who just happens to use the human body as his primary surface. Working out of Brooklyn, NY, Hooper’s life-in-ink is an ongoing search for originality; a perpetual answer to the question posed by his mentor, veteran Jim Macairt: “What are you going to do for tattooing? You will get so much from it but what will you give back?”
He gives back through gallery shows, published pattern books and being one of the rare birds whose work receives adoration from those who usually don’t like tattoos.
Alvaro Flores (Australia)
Like Hooper, Flores's tatts compliment the contours of the human body. Many of his clients flaunt geometric patterns that flower outwards or upwards, which almost seems prophetic considering his last name means "to bloom" (perhaps he changed his name?).
Working out of Korpus Studio in Brunswick, Melbourne, Flores’s kaleidoscopic work has garnered the respect and admiration of ink-enthusiasts the world over.
Tomas Tomas (UK)
The London native’s neo-tribal graphics are a homage to the past while nodding to the future, and his work mines that link between modern living and the ancestral. He explained this link to needlesandsins.com:
“Tattoos in tribal societies were poetic visual representations of environments in cultures in which people lived at the time. It was also a celebration of the mysteries of life. I then realised, rather unconsciously, these same desires and values still fuel many to get tattooed today worldwide.”
Rob Borbas (Hungary)
It’s hard to believe Borbas only got into tattooing in 2012. As a visual artist, Borbas’s solo show attracted the attention of Zsolt Sarkozy, the legendary owner of Dark Art Tattoo in Budapest, who asked the young upstart if he’d ever thought of tattooing.
Five years later, and Borbas approaches the human canvas like a learned visual artist. He draws on religious and cultural themes and imagery to create complex works that are as overwhelming to the eye as they are pleasing.
Nissaco is one of Japan’s most popular tattooists, working out of Chopstick Tattoo, one of Japan’s most popular studios. A spiritual individual, Nissaco blesses each of his clients prior to the inking, and you can almost sense this otherworldliness coming through in his lines and shapes.
His mastering of disparate elements merged into seamless constructions makes it no wonder you’d be hard pressed to land an appointment this side of 2018.
A referencing machine who cites inspiration from, among others, Stanley Kubrick and Metal Hammer magazine, Jondix is as memorable a character as he is a tattooist. He globe trots to the world’s biggest cities to gather experiences and ideas, and takes them back to his East London studio, Seven Doors.
Customers trust this bloke to such an extent that instead of demanding particular graphics, they give him the artistic freedom to do his thang.
Lauren Winzer (Australia)
Operating out of Fox & Hunter Tattoo in Sydney’s Botany, Winzer’s focus is on cute and vibrant illustrations that’d make Lena Dunham’s back green with envy.
Self-described as taking innocent imagery and infusing it with the naughty, this young tattooist is already a big name among young celebrities, having contributed art to the body of none other than one Miss Miley Cyrus.
Watch the first episode of Needles & Pins on Tuesday, 4 April at 8:30pm on SBS VICELAND.