Inked AU/NZ – Authentink Article – May 2015
by Kian ‘Horisumi’ Forreal
So I just stepped off the plane from Japan, 7 days in the land of the rising sun and endless sake and some of the best food you can get. It feels like I was gone a month as I probably didn’t sleep more than 2-3 hours at a time the entire trip. I went with 4 other tattoo artists that are also shop owners, and we met up with another tattoo artist over there to party with and show us around as our guide. Needless to say all plans of having a ‘cultural artistic’ experience quickly went out the window as soon as the first bottles of sake started to flow and the sun went down over the Tokyo skyline. It started off innocently enough with some plates of gyoza and a few bottles of cold dry sake… then some sushi platters, sashimi platters and yakatori plates, followed by increasingly more bottles of sake, and then more sake., few more gyoza… Someone made a phone call and suddenly it was 8am and it was time for bed, you get the idea.
A few hours sleep and then we started hiking around Shibuya looking for things to buy and books to hoard and pretty girls to look at. The art stores are amazing, so much variety in what you can buy and experiment with compared to what we have here in Australia, entire sections of various watercolor papers and sumi brushes, markers as far as the eye can see.. I probably spent more time wandering around the art stores than anywhere else except maybe the nightlife establishments. Half my suitcase was filled with materials to bring home and try my hand at different mediums… haha, I’ll let you know how it goes!
After a few days of eating drinking and being merry with our little band of deviant fanatics we moved the party from Tokyo to Yokohama to be a little more serious and spend some time socializing with the Master Horiyoshi 3 and then visiting the studio of Shige from Yellow Blaze. One of our crew got his leg sleeve finally finished off by Horiyoshi 3 on the Friday so he invited us all to dinner and drinks at his local spot for an early evening session of highballs and tapas. What a great guy he is and every time I hang out with him I am in awe of his lighthearted attitude, tattooing for over 45 years and still doesn’t take anything too seriously, happy to have a laugh and a joke and some drinks while maintaining his reputation as one of the foremost masters of Traditional Japanese Tattooing in the world not to mention his epic artistic exploits as a painter and book creator.
Amongst our group were a couple of younger tattooers from different styles of tattooing that were part of the school that think they have ‘reinvented’ tattooing, and we had a lively discussion about old style tattooing techniques vs new fangled kit machines with cartridges and one-piece assemblies and the no muss no muss disposable attitude of so many of the younger generation.. it brought a warmth to my heart to hear and see on his face the disapproval for all the new bullshit that Master Horiyoshi 3 had for the ‘advances’ in technology. The artist’s mind and hands are the only tools you need, and he can make great lasting art with what he has at his disposal, the closer you are to the creation process from beginning to end the more authentic and true the art is. That’s what I took away from it. Making tattoos with heart that last the test of time and living in the skin until the wearer has expired is what matters. Not what is trendy, not how good the instagram photo looks and certainly not what is easy to do with the least hassle and minimal amount of effort.
A few of us also had the absolute pleasure of visiting and spending some time in Shige’s private tattoo studio, Yellow Blaze also in Yokohama, because one of the boys was getting his half bodysuit finished off by him. Awesome. Understated. Perfect. These are the words I was thinking as we looked around and around his dojo and marveled at the artwork on the walls, the work areas, the drawings pinned to the door frames, various collectables in every corner. Shige is also a consummate artist outside of tattooing and very quiet and unassuming. I bought one of his limited edition and signed prints, shook his hand, smiled for a photo and left there incredibly inspired to step my game up and focus more on my art, I feel so lazy in the company of these two masters of the craft its ridiculous.
Funnily enough just before this trip to Japan some fruit loop with a chip on his shoulder wrote me a long drawn out email accusing myself and all the other western tattoo artists that are creating Japanese style tattoos of being ‘imposters’.. and that the tattoos we are making are imitation Japanese tattoos… blah blah blah… everyone has an opinion right? It did get to me thinking of course and after some introspection, speaking to my mentors and colleagues and of course the masters while away, I came to the conclusion that he is dead fucking wrong. I and all the other tattoo artists that dedicate our lives to our Japanese art and live it, breathe it, and create it with passion.. that shit is real, doesn’t matter where we are from or what the color of our skin is. A western person can create authentic Japanese tattoos as much as he or she can cook authentic Chinese food, play the Mongolian yatga or do anything else with the correct training, instruction, practice and heart. I have personally seen a lot of Japanese style tattooing in the flesh, good, bad and absolute rubbish, and straight up.. there are westerners out there making some of the best traditional style Japanese tattooing there is as much as anyone in Japan. The masters know this and respect it, otherwise both Horiyoshi 3 and Horitoshi 1, traditional tattoo masters I both revere and admire more than anyone else, would not each have western born Deshi flying their family flags and teaching them their sacred tattoo ways. Conversation settled.
I love Japan, everything about it and most importantly its tattoo culture and its system of rules, hierarchy and tradition. Without that they would have chaos much as we have in the west with whats going on now.. but that’s another story!
Peace love and respect
Horisumi – Kian Forreal is a professional tattoo artist specializing in Traditional Japanese Tattooing with 22 years international tattoo experience and has worked all over the world studying under some of the leading tattoo artists of today. He was given an honorary Japanese tattoo name in 2013 by Horiyoshi III in Japan and is based out of Sydney, Australia where he owns and runs Authentink Tattoo Studio in Surry Hills. You can check his work and those of the other artists working there at www.authentink.com