Setting himself apart from the rest early on, Mirko Sata has created a name for himself that is practically iconic, and synonymous with serpents. His esoteric, highly symbolic illustrative work is stunning. Fueled by the allegorical world of dreams and arcane primitivist longings, his tattoos have inspired clients and collectors from around the globe. He was kind enough to elucidate upon his process, his pieces and more in this exclusive interview.
Although you have a degree in scenography from the Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti Milano, you decided to turn to tattooing. What was the motivation for this career change?
As all the important decisions I've taken in my life even this one was dictated by my instinct. My passion for scenography and cinema is still there but I needed to be economically independent. In that field, unfortunately, before this can happen you gotta wait a long time and since I don't come from a rich family I had to change direction. What helped this transition was my crew S.A.T.A. that encouraged me in my new tattooing career and especially because they lent their body as a canvas for me to start with.
Since you are self-taught in an industry where this is often frowned upon, what advice do you have for others trying to find their way into the tattoo community?
Tattoos nowadays aren't just handcraft but also art so even those who haven't a great technique can make the difference anyway as long as they have a personal and unique idea and aesthetic. I'm interested in traditional and also experimental tattoo for many reasons but with the same intention for both. My goal is the perfect fusion between these two worlds and their cultural contaminations. There will always be a need for artists that can execute perfect tattoos, but this field, nowadays, includes too many customers to just sell the "beauty." There is a strong demand for expressivity and a strong need for communication through different languages other than classic canons. On the other hand, if you want tattoos that last you gotta learn the technique, but if you and your customers don't care and have other priorities, just make it clear to avoid misunderstanding.
I don't have wise suggestions for the new tattooists, I am still a new entry too since I started 6 years ago. What I feel to say though is don't lick asses to famous and expert tattoo artists...experiments will make you grow with way more personality and your idea could be much more interesting anyway, since comparing to them from the start. The influences that condition your style nowadays are endless in this field.
How does a healthy, loving relationship, like yours with Ilenia, uplift your creative process and spark your imagination? What is it about having a partner that supports your artistic output?
Ilenia, as with me, has a keen and deep interest for esotericism, mysticism and magic. Her wild and genuine spirituality set my passion on fire and this is the way how my thoughts, sometimes too mechanical, change in a dense flow of inspiration! We have both a very active, very lively oneiric activity, but often in opposite ways: my dreams are chaotic, disturbing, creepy and full of symbols hard to decodificate. Her dreams are complex but flowy, adventurous, rich with pictorial images. So Ilenia's diversity represents a complementary aspect to myself, and it's next to her that I'm able to give my best!
You’ve spoken before about how your dreams inspire your work, as well as esotericism, magic, and certain states of mind. Do you consider yourself a surrealist or do you practice magic yourself? How do you put yourself into the best state of mind to create?
The creative process in my case is pure instinct, the "anti concept". Snakes are the residue of my unconscious, protagonists recurrent in my dreams. I do nothing but fix them on skin, in order to transform them from ethereal images of my unconscious to indelible marks. While I'm working I like to concentrate on the client and convince myself that the snake going onto his skin is an aspect of his character, his spirit...like a pagan ritual. Often I mix my snakes with other elements suggested by simple visual inputs such as art, fashion, design, architecture and cinema, with esoteric symbols belonging to astronomy, astrology, alchemy, ancient civilizations but more often my "seals" created at the moment following a precise path of composition, a technique inspired by Austin Osman Spare. They contain one concept, one desire, or a word inspired by the clients or my interests. Thank to this practice I recreated all the zodiac symbols.
How do you feel about the “rules” of tattooing? What is your personal philosophy on tattooing, and what are your hopes for the future of the tattoo community?
The world of tattooing is full of cooky and arrogant people that forget to be only a tattoo artist and not astronauts, but except this flaw I love my job. It makes me travel, meet other artists around the world that I wouldn't otherwise, gives me new input and new experiences. Everyday though I notice that there are many products and tools that can be improved, I think about possible aesthetics that can be involved...so in the end the aspects that cheer me up the most is innovation. I hope that technology will continue to evolve in my field without necessarily setting aside the traditional techniques and tools. I actually think they could coexist. May be one day robots will be the new tattooers and to be honest the idea is exciting to me, as long as there will be some skeptical customers left that still prefers human tattoo artists! I will be the old stupid man that hates the progress that he encourages now ahaha!
Do you have any plans for 2018 that you’d like to share? Guest spots, collaborations, new mediums or techniques?
My plans for 2018/19 are to concentrate on the evolution of my art, on merchandising and surely on exploration of new counties for guest spots. I don't really want to anticipate much, but it will be definitely a rich year full of novelties!