Pino Cafaro‘s Japanese- style tattoo work is an art of experience; of familiarity and comfort with symbolism and history, all within the confines of tradition. Western artists, prone to the demand of the industry, are sometimes just that – artists, and therefore, spotless recreators.
Pino, however, belongs to the second class of tattooists. The kind that recreates in a new light, all the while remaining sensitive to the significance of the imagery they’re rendering. It’s difficult to take something as steeped in tradition as Irezumi and assign it a new creative identity while staying within the boundaries of its original meaning. Pino is able to achieve this with a certain finesse, infusing his work with subtle vision that speaks to his creative capacity.
Above all, Pino’s body of work is characterized by his adherence to the legendary and the supernatural, casting both in glory and with respect to their cultural context. What is most striking about his take on the characters of Irezumi is the humanistic element each being adopts.
All of them, including samurai, the geisha, and oni-demons, are defined by their expressions. One clutches a dagger between her teeth, another raises a sword and stands in fighting stance captured mid-swing. Another cackles, baring a deformed grin, mocking the mortals. Through expressive features and composition, Pino establishes his tattoos as more than vessels of generational storytelling, letting them stand out among their brethren without forgetting their roots.
I would even go as far as to describe Pino’s work as portraiture, following the principle of the eyes being the window to the inside – from the countless pairs of eyes Pino has inked during his lengthy career. It’s safe to say that each of them is crucial to truly comprehending the character they belong to.
When it comes to large- scale Irezumi, back pieces are like the works of Shakespeare- highly intentional symbolism runs rampant. Large designs give room to tell a story without omitting any details, and it is often what surrounds the main figure that conveys the most about the narrative. Pino pinpoints that element of large- scale composition effortlessly, letting his tattoos snowball into allegorical playlands, as long as the third party is willing to interpret them to their full potential.
Not only is Pino Cafaro proficient in his chosen style of tattooing, but he does it with a refined instinct, perfected throughout years of experience. This intuition allows him to make culturally accurate combinations in terms of symbolism, and give certain characters the gift of expression, heightening the connection between tattoo and tattoo receiver.