Two decades ago, the Japanese tattoo artist Gakkin found himself honing a love for body art after dropping out of the fashion design school he was attending at the time. A self-described freehand artist, he’s well known for his creative process, which eschew traditional stencil in favor of a less step-by-step, more improvisational method. His current portfolio, rendered mostly in black and grey, reflects his most recent experiments in shape and technique, which are bound to make you rethink the role of abstraction in tattoo art- Gakkin takes the concept to another level, inevitably managing to give his pieces clear intent, no matter what form they take.
Through the years, Gakkin’s work has evolved, retaining its original Japanese influence, but redefining the sense of tradition that permeates the culture. Even as recently as five years ago, his tattoos concentrated on irezumi motifs and technique, while inching towards the absurd side of things and going wild. Today, his collection of work reflects the same unhinged affinity for that other side- sometimes dark, sometimes obscure, always pushing the limits. And yet, somehow, his tattoos conform to the mortal body they’re destined for, seeping into the skin and becoming one with the limbs, like an eternal shadow under a blood moon.
If you’ve ever seen a tattoo classified as “geometric,” you’ve seen the shapes and line work that go into guaranteeing a symmetric piece, impeccably calculated and oozing right-angle perfection. Gakkin’s alternative freehand is an art of symmetry as well, but the sheer fluidity of his designs relies on instinct to guarantee the same effect. There is something so impulsive, so improbable, with his work that it could only come from a mind that was never committed to a single idea or rudimentary way of approaching a subject. There lies Gakkin’s secret- the ability to let go of preconceived notions and treat each new piece like a beginning.
Gakkin’s traditional influences were the backbone of his work, providing a stable foundation for his preferred lack of convention and allowing his identity as a freehand artist to grow uninhibited. That confidence spills from the artist’s hand, through his fingers to the tip of the tattoo needle and on to whatever one of a kind scene he’s inking at the moment, leaving a bit of its uncanny glow in the heart of the piece.