During the 3-day Sydney Tattoo and Body Arts Exhibition back in March 2009, a number of publications interviewed Durga and one of them was Australian Ink. For all the visitors of the exhibition, a teaser 10-pager of what would be the first Australian Tattoo, lifestyle and music magazine was given out.
Vanessa Morgan, the editor, came by our booth and requesting for an interview time with Durga for the next day. She brought with her the photographer from her magazine to take a couple of shots while he is doing his work.
The next day, right on time, Vanessa came and did the interviewed just outside the exhibition hall. She promised to let us know when the magazine will be out, approximately mid May 2009. Rightly so, it came out with a bang with Pink’s photo on the cover and a headline of Femme Fatale Issue.
In this issue, I found not only Durga was profiled, but a couple of my favorite tattoo artists and studio were there, too – such as Danniel DiMattia from Calypso Tattoo Studio in Belgium, as well as Megan Oliver (she did my first tattoo!) and the team of talented artists and owner of Inner Vision studio in Sydney. Such an exciting edition! So here we go…
Booth after booth was filled at the Sydney Tatoo and Body Art Expo, with artists from around the world displaying their own style and take on the art. But in a small, almost hidden corner of the expo sat an artist entirely unlike any other.
Indonesian born Durga’s work evokes a tribal signature distinct to his own experience, with influences of folklore, legends and mythology from his native land. He twists in a hint of the macabre and taboos from the diverse culture he grew up with.
Having studied visual art at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, he then journeyed to Germany to further his understanding of art and work as a graphic designer. Soon after, he found himself in a one of the tattoo capitals of the world – Los Angeles.
‘The initial idea to be a tattooist happened in Germany,’ Durga says. But it wasn’t for four years till his wish came true, taking up an apprenticeship at Black Wave Tatoo, on La Brea Avenue, LA.
Black Wave Studio is known for its tribal tattoos and Durga studied under Sua Sulu’ape Freewind, the current owner of the studio, who has made an obligation to preserve the ancient art from tatau. Specializing in the art of archipelago Indonesia, his emphasis is on making each piece of work unique for individual clients.
Durga says that like many Asian countries, young people in Indonesia look to get western-styled tattoos as opposed to the tribal and traditional works. However, he has seen a change recently, with more people looking to honour their culture and traditions. With a rich tattoo history, tattooing was eliminated in Indonesia during the colonial era, prohibited by the Indonesian government.
Following his stint in LA, Durga returned to Indonesia, continuing to learn and taking up a traditional hand-tapping tattoo style with Dajak Borneo and Mentawai-Sumatera techniques.
Currently set up in his home, he will open his studio in June 2009, taking plenty of care to ensure it is the right environment for his clients.
Inner Vision is one of Sydney’s best-known and respected tattoo studios, opening its doors 14 years ago when owner, Cliffe Clayton, returned from touring the US and spending four years studying under the world-respected John ‘The Dutchman’ van ‘t Hullenaar in Vancouver, Canada.
The shop started with a crew of one in the back streets of Surry Hills doing great custom Japanese tattooing at a time when few were doing it in Australia. From there the reputation of the shop and artist line up grew into what it is now – a premier street/custom tattoo shop with five full-time artists and a regular crew of international guests making yearly visits.
Open seven days a week, the studio recently moved from its old terrace location to a spacious new shop across the road. Studio manager and Australian Ink’s resident tattoo advisor, Kian Forreal says: ‘It was definitely the end of an era, bue the new shop at 251 Crown Street is four floors shop space with lots of natural light and room to move and be creative. Everyone is super happy with the new shop. We really needed more space.’
The studio caters for diverse clientele, open for walk-ins on the weekend and custom during the week. ‘People will always travel for quality. We get investment bankers, artists, mums, blue-collar workers, restaurateurs, musicians – pretty much the entire spectrum of people that want the best tattoo they can find. We stand behind our work 100 per cent’ Kian says.
With thousands of pre-dawn designs in both classic and contemporary styles, there is an extensive reference library for anyone looking for custom work. Photographic portfolios of all current studio artists are available, with each of the artists capable in most styles, yet choosing to specialize in their own favourites for custom work. The studio also has a rotating roster of guests that are good all-rounders as well as specialists.
Ensuring the standards are met through a combination of highly artistic, skilled tattooists, great client communication and hospital-grade sterilization procedures, Inner Vision puts its success down to its employees. Kian elaborates: ‘We are very discerning about who we hire and what we look for in potential artists. You must have a high regard for tattooing in general and a great portfolio to back it up. We also prefer at least 10 years of shop experience.