Agam- a travelling tattoo artist and long-term client talks about tattoos the way one would, about their high school sweethearts. At least, the way one should. He describes getting inked as a permanent commitment. The only commitment, according to him that’s tangible and stays embroidered to you even after your back hits the hard surface of a casket. He tells me that even though it been over three years, the dawn of every day brings a new wave of affection for his ‘work- in- progress’ tattoo. In his opinion, the idea of getting a tattoo should be constructed and eventually executed, once the foundation of decision- making, research and a lot of thought, has been laid. This is Inkspace studio in conversation with Agam, check it out
Q. Tell us about the tattoo you’ll be getting completed today?
A. “ Chetan started this tattoo almost three and a half years ago. Today seems like the final sitting. In terms of the size, if we count according to square inches, it’d be around 90 sq inches. Almost as big as an A-4 sheet. It’s extended from the upper thigh, all the way to the knees. This represents a contrast of me. People usually get tattoos that relate to them, speak for them. This, on the other hands stands for everything that opposes my personality. The king, as you can see, stands for a rich- bratty personality that lies right on the other side of the spectrum from who I am. This tattoo also captures my appreciation for ‘Chicano’. A Mexican artwork that’s symbolic of the mafia from the thirties and forties. A woman with a cigar and a hat is very characteristic of it. Plus, more than anything, the mere longevity of this tattoo-ing experience has made me aware of the importance of patience. Not to say that I’m yearning for this to get stretched on any further. I’ve been made aware, not appreciative. *laughs*
Q. Haha, noted. What about yourself? Tell us a little about your life.
A. “I’m essentially a travelling tattoo artist. I began my journey around four years back when I received training under a well- known tattoo studio. In fact, Chetan was one of my mentors. So after absorbing knowledge from there, I went back to my home town- Nagpur. Not a lot of people are aware, open or even slightly knowledgeable about the art of tattooing there. Moreover, the unawareness is paired with a lot of unsolicited judgment. I think I have learnt to combat that over time as I realize that getting inked is solely driven by inert & personal motivation for me. I do it for myself, nobody else. But other than that I wish people took it more seriously. It bothers me that very often you’d find people wanting to get their own name written for as cheap as possible. Not realizing that the work done by the artist is going to stay on their bodies for the rest of their lives, so it’s wiser to pay them whole heartedly and well. The artists, they deal with a lot of pressure in my opinion. Anyway, I worked there for a couple of months, however the lack of exposure urged me to think about further opportunities. The result of which was that I moved to Goa. I was there for about two whole years. I met a multitude of people there, and the kind of designs brought to me spoke volumes about the existing diversity. I had people from all over Europe as clients, even tattoo artists. I think I learnt a lot of my practical knowledge from them. It helped me sift through a styles and eventually develop my own. So as of now, I’m just meandering in search of inspiration, good clients, artists and maybe weed?
Q. Out of the innumerable tattoos you have, tell us about the most striking/meaningful one?
A. “Out of all my tattoos, the dearest to me would be this memorial tattoo for my father. It’s extremely close to my heart. Who do you think this infant is? ( “your son?”, was my very hesitant answer. To which, he giggled.) I’m his son! He’s my father. This picture was taken in 1960. He was hardly four months old. The image itself is special because at the time, cameras weren’t available. My grandfather had gotten hold of this Russian photographer who was visiting town, and this photograph has been subjected to extreme care ever since.
So when he passed away, almost 5 years back, getting this immortalized seemed like a good decision.”
Q. Okay, so here comes the inevitable intense question. Comment on the tattoo culture in this country.
A. “ To speak of the tattoo culture in India, I’d first want to stress upon the importance of customization. I think it gives you and the artist major leverage to be creative and do justice to the idea in mind. It’s also a good indicator of how good the artist is. At least to me, the word ‘tattoo’ immediately gives birth to the word ‘unique’ in my head. The more out of the ordinary, the better. It should obviously tell a story alongside, but I feel novelty is an important factor. While being specific to India, over time this idea is assimilating itself with the youth. It’s good to see that, I guess.”
Q. (Demands a drumroll) Very sentimental, significant other-looking for validation-type question coming up. Why me?! (Giggles) All jokes aside, why us? Why inkspace?
A. “It’s almost scary when you put it like that. Haha. There are a number of tattoo studios now. Impeccable artists working under the same roof. But Inkspace still stands out for me. This place offers a platform and space for travelling artists to come and practice. The inks, the needles, the atmosphere, the talent around.. everything’s handed to you on a platter. It propels the art, encourages it. I love that.”