By Mcken Wong
Most of us would have already seen it: An image of a woman’s back adorned with an exquisite showcase of neo-tribal-influenced tattoos. It’s a vibrant example of the latest trend to hit the ink community, and really, a confirmation of a once neglected subculture that has evolved into a respected one.
And the identity of the lady? Her name is Melody Chan. For the past two years, Melody has been working with Chester Lee, a tattoo artist from Oracle Tattoo, to create a full-back piece.
“When I was younger, I made hasty decisions and had a tattoo of a fairy on my right shoulder blade, as well as a tribal design on my lower back (below),” Melody says. “This gave Chester limited space to work with, but we brainstormed on how we could make use of the negative space and design a complete art piece that can cover up my old tattoos.
“It was around then that I got fascinated with spirit science and the beauty of sacred geometry. And boom – we decided on mixing blackout tattoos with intricate geometric compositions.”
Blackout tattoos, as its name suggests, involves tattooing over large surface areas of the body with solid black ink. Social media platforms such as Instagram have been inundated with images of #blackouttattoos, but why the sudden thirst for this?
“Times are changing, and people are starting to accept bolder designs,” says Chester. “Even if there’s no particular image in mind, it’s still possible to create a different work of art.”
One thing to note however, is that not every tattoo artist can commit to the high level of technical and aesthetic qualities blackout tattoos require. “It can look really messy if the tattoo artist doesn’t pay attention to the details,” says tattoo enthusiast Tessa. “The shading has to be really on point for the whole work to stand out.”
With such a large surface area of the skin being needled with black ink, some people would probably wonder – is it safe?
“As with all forms of tattooing, there are needles involved in the process,” says Dr Teo Wan Lin, a dermatologist practising in Raffles Hospital.
“Should it not be done by a qualified professional using sterile equipment, there is a risk of transmission of infectious diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B/C, as well as the risks of scarring and infection.”
Chester, too, reiterated that before any session, new needles are used and a sterile setup has to be in place. “We’ll also do a consultation beforehand and explain the process to the customer,” Chester adds. “Other aspects such as their skin condition have to be considered as well.”