Planet hopper, star warrior, celestial spirit, Suni Banik creates pieces that call upon the power of open minded intergalactic soul travel. Gleaning inspiration from crop circles, fractals, stained glass and hieroglyphs each of Suni's pieces, whether inked on skin or vividly designed from metal and cloth, seems to fuse deep esoteric realms with the vast varied landscape of modernity.
What is your artistic background? Did you always want to be a tattooer and how did you get into tattooing?
I have no professional artistic background. Although I've been creating art religiously since I was a youngin'. I've dabbled in most forms of art, from making jewelry, to painting, costume making, dancing and even singing. I knew I could never have a "normal job" and I needed to make art for a living. Which is a lot easier said than done. Painting actually became my main form of art for a good while. I had a deep curiosity for tattooing and always admired tattoo artists. It almost seemed like fate. I was given the opportunity to apprentice under Corey Divine in Los Angeles. That was a major turning point in my career. Shortly after my apprenticeship I moved back to Oakland to work with Dillon Forte at Sri Yantra Tattoo. And I've been there ever since. I am grateful everyday that I have found tattooing, and that tattooing has found me. My life has evolved into what I envisioned as I struggled throughout my youth as an artist.
Who are your artistic heroes, tattooists or not? Are there any films, books, visuals, that inspire you?
My artistic heroes range from legends like Jean-Michel Basquiat, to performing genius's like Noel Fielding. Robert Smith from The Cure & David Bowie for obvious reasons. One of my favorite painters has to be Kofie. I feel like we're on the same team. Even if he doesn't know it, hehe. As far as tattoo artists go, man, the list is endless! Thomas Thomas, Gakkin, Maxime, Kenji, Dillon Forte, Nissaco, Ben Volt, Georgie Williams, Phillip Millic, Raphcemo, Boone Naka, Yashka Steiner, etc.
Your work seems to be infused with a lot of spirituality and symbolism. Do you have a particular philosophy you follow yourself?
I can't say that I have a particular philosophy that I follow. What I do have is a smorgasbord of different things that subconsciously move into my mind and summon up what you see in my style of tattooing. Everything from Native patterns in beadwork and clothing, to alien languages and crop circles. Stained glass windows in temples, architectural blueprints, geometry in nature, and the glyphs on the pyramids in Egypt. All of these things and more make me exited, and feel something deeply special in my entire being.
Can you talk about your multi-media projects, such as The Kachina Project? Who are these characters that you bring to life, and how do you create their stories/aesthetics? What materials do you use to put these pieces together?
Aside from tattooing, I have a yearning to create different characters and costumes. I love dressing up, and I love masks. I love ceremonial dances and masks worn by indigenous groups. I love theatrical costuming like you would see in the show "The Mighty Boosh". Anything that involves intense outfits and powerful looks. Sometimes its on a comical level, sometimes its on a more serious note. Its never my intent to have my characters portray anything in particular, although theres no doubt they all have a special extraterrestrial vibe. Perhaps this is conjured up from my deep love of anything alien to me. The materials I use are anything I can get my hands on, I'll even use my own trash!
What is the best advice you’ve ever received? What is the best advice you feel you can give?
I feel like I've been given loads of good advice throughout my life. I feel like I've also been given loads of shitty advice. Its good to know the difference and follow your heart. If I could give a piece of advice, it would be to never take yourself too seriously. Because let's be honest, we're all just figuring it out.
Beyond tattooing/creating art, what is most important to you? What do you wish you had more time for?
I guess I would have to say that creating art is the most important thing to me, aside from my overall well-being and health.
Do you have any plans for 2019 that you’d like to share? Travel plans, collabs, projects, merch releases, etc?
Well, I'm currently gearing up for the Nepal Tattoo Convention in April where I'll be tattooing besides my good friends and even my own brother. I would really love to check out Tibet while I'm out there. I keep getting asked about any plans to travel to France, so it looks like I may have to make a Europtrip sometime in 2019. I will be making smaller jumps to LA, to work at the other Sri Yantra Tattoo location with Dillon Forte. I'll also be dropping a line of original paintings. Probably somewhere from 3-4 paintings. So stay tuned!