It’s crazy to think that what’s considered relatively normal and, in recent years, has become widely accepted in Western culture is still illegal in some Eastern cultures. It’s easy to forget that although there is still some backlash and discrimination in regards to tattoo culture in America, we still exist within a relatively large bubble. In fact, in a series for I-D Magazine, Grace Neutral, a well known, heavily tattooed artist who was visiting South Korea in an effort to gain better insight regarding the illegal tattoo culture in the region, asked an elderly man what he thought of her tattoos. “She’s got a pretty face and a nice body, but because of the tattoos, she’s ruined.”
In South Korea, you have to have a medical license in order to be a legally practicing tattoo artist, yet there are still countless underground artists that are daring to defy societal beauty standards. Although a good majority of the tattoo work coming out of Seoul is of the delicate, fine lined variety, we can hardly think of a bolder or more defiant act, and artist Nando Tattooer is in the thick of it.
Creating incredibly dainty tattoos that are easily concealed, Nando has made quite a name for himself, amassing nearly 125K followers on Instagram. Focusing primarily on organic subjects like flora and fauna, Nando’s strength lies in his ability to create ornate masterpieces with the finest of lines. Black and grey dominates the majority of their work, but that’s not to say he isn't a master of color as well, occasionally calling on lilacs, greens, and muted pinks to add a little something extra to his flowers. But perhaps Nando’s most universally loved tattoos are the teeny tiny animal portraits. Creating everything from the cuddliest dog to a dark and looming black panther and even a slithering serpent, Nando’s animals vary in kingdom, but never in quality.
Although they are small, Nando’s fine lined creations are making a difference in the budding tattoo subculture in Seoul, as more and more young people reject the traditional beauty ideals of South Korean culture, instead opting to define it on their own terms. It just goes to show that even the tiniest flower or cutest kitten can be a bold act of defiance given the circumstances; although they are tiny they are astonishingly mighty.