Tattoo artist Yoni Zilber‘s work leans toward the spiritual and the archaic, with a mythological allure that fills in the blanks between body and mind. Though his subject matter is varied- he works outside of the borders of traditional spiritual symbolism- there’s something primordial linking his tattoos. There’s a core simplicity to them, right along with his capacity for intricacies, and those are the twin forces that balance each other out in his images.

Referring back to Yoni’s choices in subject matter, his portfolio is largely made up of Far Eastern iconography, keeping in time with the complex historical and religious narrative of Asian culture. His depictions of Tibetan and Hindu deities are classical portraiture with a natural serenity to them, a testament to the healing properties of a religious tattoo- an eternal protection made tangible by ink. He also delve into East Asian imagery, incorporating traditional symbols like that of the dragon, surrounding them with the kind of ornamental elements that give the piece life and motion instead of a convenient frame. Yoni is also a deeply geometric artist, focusing on the relationships between symmetry and its lack thereof, and striving to find that aforementioned balance between composition and significance within a tattoo.

To define the two extremes Yoni reaches as an artist, I chose two pieces that particularly speak to the variety of his style, but also acknowledge his continuous core principles. One is a vibrant sleeve which also happens to be a cover- up- a large, encompassing image of the Hindu god Ganesh, complete with traditional jewelry and headpiece. The tattoo is a combination of regal colors, bright but not trivial, and subdued in the right places. It extends around the sides of the arm, holding a steady gaze that is not lost in the ornamental abundance that surrounds it on all sides.

The other example is a piece that extends form shoulder to shoulder, traversing the collarbones in a slight arc. Just from the outline, it’s obvious that the piece is just as much about symbolism as it is about symmetry. The focal point is a gentle lotus pointing up towards the throat- a centerpiece that’s not overwhelming but holds just enough quiet power to define the entire tattoo. It’s no Ganesh, but encircles the body in the same protective way, becoming so much more than an ornamental weight.

Zilber treats his subject matter with equal levels of respect, simultaneously allowing room for improvisation. There’s an incredible profundity in his work, but it’s not an intimidating one.


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Yoni Zilber working on client Frank Meliota


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