Before exploring tattooing, this 27-year-old artist studied environmental sculpture at Seoul National University. Pauline, a well-known Korean tattoo artist, began his career in 2015 and has since done numerous guest spots in Asia and Europe. His art is characterized by figural distortion, scribbling lines, passion, and movement. Pauline’s delicate tattoos are influenced by Austrian art from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He frequently works with a single line to create floral motifs (lilies, tulips, and roses).
Above: Pauline created a flowery piece using black and white pigments.
With sketch lines and figural distortion, a pair in love.
Where did the inspiration for your drawing style come from?
My work is inspired by the sketches of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. I often draw forms in which two things are entwined [like two hands connecting, a couple in love], and it’s interesting to unravel that emotion in expression with lines. I appreciate lines that are drawn without being aware of them. They are done spontaneously and based on emotion, so each drawing is unique.
Pauline’s emotive line portraits.
So you’re not aiming for perfection in your work but rather for emotion?
Yes, I believe so. In my paintings, I’ve never sought perfection. I suppose I express myself through my art and seek out emotions.
Additionally, the artist integrates color in his fine-line tattoos.
What kind of paintings do you want to create? Within the confines of your tattoo style or another?
I’m interested in line drawing or rough and dark textures such as charcoal, brushes, etc.
The topic of love and passion recurs throughout.
As a result, you consider tattooing to be fine art. Why do you believe art institutes (museums and galleries) have difficulty accepting this craft?
It has not been and will not be easy to gain acceptance. But I believe it is related to a significant cultural role. It’s all prejudice, with a lot of potential [for change] someday.
A simplified reproduction of 1508–1512’s “The Creation of Adam.”
How do you approach your creative work?
In most cases, I only prepare one concept. And plan ahead of time to discuss the design with the client. Some images take five minutes to create, while others take several days. Sometimes I like the lines I drew without realizing it, and I’m not too fond of some designs, no matter how much I edit them. Rather than modifying the image further, I usually draw a new one. I believe it is well expressed in my line drawings.
Although this tattoo is fresh, white ink heals differently than other inks.
Do your clients ask for white ink, or do you suggest it for particular artworks?
At first, I purposefully included it in my designs, as I wanted them to be more memorable than the other tattoos. However, many customers now desire white ink to demonstrate how much white tattoos have become a part of my artistic identity.
Faces intertwined for this evocative art creation.
Your line art reminds me of the flow of music. Do you listen to music when you work?
Yes, I can feel the music; it’s incredible! I am constantly listening to music. When I tattoo, draw, drive, and so on, I almost always listen to music. There is no specific music genre in mind. If you fall in love with a song, you usually want to hear it repeatedly for days.
Pauline in his element, at a private tattoo studio.
What else flows for you?
When I see the sea, I feel at ease and relieve, even if I have a lot of worries or am feeling stuffy. When I’m in the presence of Mother Nature, my concerns go away.
Photos © Pauline