INK COMMUNION: Mohan Gurung, of Mohan’s Tattoo Inn, works on a design of Akash Bhairab (Sky Shiva) on the arm of his friend, pilot Vijay Lama.
as published in nepali times #496 —
In a tiny space on the second floor of a Thamel shophouse, tattoo artist Mohan Gurung is hard at work within a gargantuan world – one filled with age-old tribal symbols to modern bio-mechanical images. He is a conduit for the art, which flows through steady hands onto canvases of skin.
“I have a big studio in Pokhara, but little business. Here in Kathmandu I have a small space, but big business,” jokes Gurung. The quiet and affable Gurung, who received his training in South Korea after some persuasion from a good friend who noticed his talent, counts celebrities and fans from all over the world among his clients. He is so busy, in fact, that he is booked all the way till the end of the year and has stopped taking any more appointments.
Tattooing is an art that transcends time and physical boundaries. The threshold of pain is pushed in the hours required to apply even a simple design. And not only for the person getting the tattoo – the tattoo artist sits locked in rigid concentration, knowing full well that even a single mistake is unacceptable.
After about 3 hours of work with Vijay Lama, a pilot with Nepal Airlines who calls himself a ‘devotee’ of Gurung’s art, the artist limps off for a break, the physical and mental toll apparent. “He spends 12-14 hours a day in this little place, hardly moving, and yet he is one of the happiest people I know,” says Lama. “I’m amazed.”
Gurung returns and explains that he is in talks with the Nepal Tourism Board to hold the country’s first tattoo convention in April next year. “With tattoos becoming more popular here, there is a niche for tattoo tourism,” he says. Returning to his seat, Gurung picks up his tools and gets back to work, his dreams of becoming a great artist and sharing his passion spurring him on. And the wider world is ready and waiting for him.
PREP TIME: Natural, vegetable-based dyes are injected into the skin at the rate of 80-150 times per second through tattoo machines from Micky Sharpz, a well-known brand. Needles range in size and configuration for different purposes like outlining and shading.
CLEAN, MEAN MACHINE: Hygiene is of paramount importance as the dyes are injected into the skin. Disposable gloves, new needles for each session, and a regular wipe-down of the skin with antiseptic solution are some of the precautions taken.
TOTAL TATTOOS: Tattoos and piercings adorn Gurung’s entire body. He gets inked by fellow artists, some of whom are his idols, at tattoo conventions all over the world.
IMMENSE FOCUS: Making a mistake is out of the question, and even experience cannot be taken for granted. Gurung is always looking forward to his next piece, because he knows it will be better than the last.
PAPER IS GOOD, SKIN BETTER: Akash Bhairab is the emblem of Nepal Airlines. Captain Vijay Lama has made it his own to mark his dedication to the national flag carrier, and hopes for clearer skies ahead.
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