Johan Svahn‘s work embodies the spirit of the modern Japanese tattoo- divine, like gossamer, but still daring, still intrepid. The composition of every tattoo of his is not accidental. These are messages that have survived for hundreds of years, now immortalized on the bodies of spiritual seekers around the world. Svahn clearly has a passion for the beautiful, but does not let beauty become the sole factor that guides him when designing a tattoo.
Svahn pays ample respect to the traditional Japanese symbolism that defines his work. One can tell that he understands and treasures the complex analogies and relationships between the figures he portrays. Irezumi is a sacred form of art, and there is a fine line between a design that is only aesthetically pleasing, and one that is suited to the receiver’s values, transformation, and growth. He juxtaposes dragons with maple leaves of fire, drawing a parallel between the passing of time and the acquisition of wisdom. He has an extensive comprehension of how to represent change, the inevitable motif present in all life on earth. Johan delves into the spirit world, acting as a purveyor of our mortal desire for meaning, and comes back with designs that surpass our preconceived notions of life, death, and the infinite.
On a technical level, Svahn’s hands seem to have a natural fluidity, making them the ideal tools to express movement on a perpetually active canvas like the skin. He can freeze gusts of wind, folds of fabric, coils of hair and spiraling water in images that flow even in their immobility and permanence. His color palette is characteristically vivid, but with an expertly vigilant attention to shadow, he can create black and white pieces with the same vibrance as his colored ones. I especially love a smaller piece of his, depicting an oni, or demon spirit, cascading over a knee in clouds of scarlet akin to flower petals. In his larger pieces, no naked cavities exist- every inch is a crucial part of the image as a whole.
Svahn is a man deserving of his gift. He upholds a respect for the art of Irezumi while rendering pieces fitted to the lives of his clients: pieces that live with a person not as an accessory, but as a part of them. Johan works out of
Malmö Classic Tattooing in Sweden.