Intat Talks About His Serpentine and Fantastical Tattoos
Master of fine-line style, influenced by the duality of the yin and yang and the harmony of the Zodiac signs, if you are thinking of getting dragons or snakes look no further
Born and based in Seoul, Intat runs Yasaeng studio, consisting of eight outstanding artists, himself included. He started to tattoo 8 years ago under Zihwa, when he got in love with the intricate tattoos created through fine line style, so much so that he quit university and started practicing on himself for six months, before accepting his first customer.
Intat's fine line work is characterized by a dark palette mixed with subtle whites to achieve a harmonious structure of light and shade, where the fundamental volumes of the figure are emphasized.
The subjects of his tattoos, mostly dragons and snakes, are influenced mainly but not exclusively by the yin and yang, the duality of life. This is evident not only in the color composition and high contrast of his work, but also in the meaning of the motifs themselves (according to Chinese astrology, all Zodiac signs, and this includes the snakes and dragons, have a yin and yang). The result of this combination of a high-contrast fine-line work on one hand and the selection of very symbolic motifs in the other, is a very detailed work with a halo of fantasy and mystery.
The collateral effect of engraving heavily symbolic designs with such a level of detail is often a profound impact on the customer, a therapeutic effect which helps to overcome traumas, strengthening their beliefs and values and increasing their confidence levels. Undoubtedly something to be very proud of.
What do tattoos and tattooing mean to you?
I think engraving designs that last forever on people requires a high level of responsibility and trust. The responsibility refers to a variety of things; from working in an environment with the highest sanitary conditions, to the quality of the design and the necessary skill level to perform the work. And only when these things are achieved can we gain trust from our customers. For me, tattooing can never be taken lightly, and it has a great meaning.
Your tattoos, both by style and subject matter, evoque mysticism, but it wasn't this way in the past. Could you please explain your progress and how do you feel about your work currently?
My early paintings had a style of the blackwork genre focused on thin lines, and I was able to capture my intentions while possessing technical skills in drawing and tattooing. Not all expressions of intentions require technical skill, but in my case the expression I aim for requires a high level of technical skill. Because of this, I believe I am in the process of constantly experiencing and honing, and gradually approaching my goal.
Can you describe the tattoos that you do and the kind of tattoos that you like and enjoy?
My tattooing is a fine-line style based on blackwork. I like to deal with designs inspired by the elements that make up the eastern and western constellations in tattoos. In particular, I enjoy working with dragons and snakes, the components of the constellations covered in astrology, and I like to incorporate yin and yang into the design as a whole or compositionally.
What has changed in tattooing since you started 8 years ago?
I guess it's a natural process, but my drawing and tattooing skills have improved. In addition, the job of tattooist has had a significant impact on the formation of my current values and beliefs. I think I learned how to communicate with people and I try to show my respect to them through my work.
How do you feel about the tattoos that you’ve done?
My tattoos create black and white art embroidered with thin lines. I like to apply the unique tone of the skin and arrange the tone of the design in harmony. I try to achieve a stable harmony in the canvas that makes up the design, from light and shade to composition. As a result I think my design contains yin and yang expressions that symbolize the harmony of all things, regardless of the canvas.
Do your tattoos have a transformative effect on your clients?
It may not be the case for all tattoos, but I think tattoos do have an impact. What is just a nice design to some, for others can strengthen their identity and help them overcome their trauma. Therefore, I am sure that my tattoos can have a positive effect on their lives.
What about you, which tattoos have influenced your work most?
I would say that probably the first dragon tattoo I worked on (see below). This was my first try at a Western dragon around 2018, and it was very popular at the time. This is the tattoo that has had the biggest impact on my becoming a tattooist who mainly deals with dragons, as the case now.
Could you describe how your typical day is?
I usually wake up in the morning and go to the studio at 9 a.m. and have time to prepare for reservation counseling and design until 1 p.m., the opening time. I work on tattoos from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. or 9 p.m. depending on the size of the project, and I leave work at night having created the content. I spend my leisure time after work on exercising and hobbies. I go to bed around 1 or 2 a.m. This routine has been built by me through years of trial and error. Because I followed this routine, I have been able to continue my creative activities in the best conditions every day.
The last 2 years have been complicated. How was your experience with COVID-19 lockdowns? Have you kept busy artistically during the pandemic?
It’s true that the total number of inquiries has decreased over the past two years due to COVID-19. But it wasn't enough to affect my schedule, so I was able to work in the same pattern as usual. But apart from this, the time of COVID-19 was obviously a difficult time for everyone, and we're overcoming the consequences. I sincerely look forward to seeing a peaceful time without further distress for all of us, not only because of the pandemic, but also because of other factors such as war and economic stagnation.
Tattooing is regarded as a sub-cultural, forbidden activity in South Korea, although it seems to have become a mainstream art and is home to world class tattooers. What are your thoughts about that?
Korea is the only country in the world where tattoos are considered prohibited, but many high-quality artists are born here. It's very sad that there's no system in place for us to do what we love. We've been trying to institutionalize tattoos for a long time, but it's not easy. I see this as a retrogression of the Korean judiciary. Demand and supply of tattoos in Korea are on the rise, and I believe that the ban will be lifted and the system will be established soon.
How do you see yourself in 5 years time?
There is still a lot to learn in the world and new things continue to emerge. Just recently, I taught AI my paintings, and I was shocked by the terrifying results. I felt a tremendous possibility. I'm really looking forward to the future. In 5 years, I believe that I will become an artist who has achieved various challenges and achievements.