Interview: Robert Henrik

First few basic questions, who are you, what are you doing, where are you coming from?

Hi! My name is Robert Henrik, I am a 26 years old multidisciplinary artist but my main focus is on tattooing. I was born in the Arctic Circle but I reside, work and live in Helsinki, Finland.

How long you have been tattooing? How did you start?

I have been tattooing for roughly seven years now, but I’ve dabbled with the format from my early teens.

I’m self-taught and started out with making my own machines (terrible ones) in my youth but really started to take it more seriously in 2013-2014. I’ve been drawing all my life and at one point my friends started asking for tattoos so I naturally complied. As a young punk kid, I was fascinated by the gritty and raw look of the tattoos associated with the culture.

“f I had a moment where I’d think ’is this too much, I would know it probably would result in something interesting.”

Your works are a beautiful mixture of portraits, abstract art, and cut-out mentalism from collage art, how did you start to do this kind of works? how you quickly you found your ”style”?

I was doing a lot of heavy bold traditional work before I started to go into this thing that I’m doing at the moment. Even though I’ve never really enjoyed b&g realism or realism I always enjoyed seeing people dwell into pieces hours on end and putting in work and creating intricate pieces. I felt strongly about giving something back to tattooing and contributing to it and it started to feel like I was always comparing myself to others and felt like I was not giving out enough. Only after I stopped comparing myself to others and caring what others might think about my work, it started to come naturally. Doing things that I felt were truly me and in a way pushing what could be done. Bear in mind I had no set of reference for realism, surrealism, or whatever this is when I started to shift to it. I just stopped at looking at other tattoos (that were mainly traditional work) and begun making weird things and compositions that ’kinda’ looked they could work. If I had a moment where I’d think ’is this too much, I would know it probably would result in something interesting.

You use the skin as a canvas and ink create immediately permanent strokes/lines – Your works having such a strong abstract feeling so how much there’s room for free flow while you’re tattooing? Do you draw the whole thing completely ready before starting to work the skin?

I usually try to think of the human anatomy when I’m preparing pieces. How everything flows, where to do contrasting shapes, and so on. I try to keep everything pretty loose and tight at the same time when setting the final draft onto the skin. Chopping up the stencil if needed, adding removing, and using as much empty space I can to make something that is fitted for the client. More or less I try to make a final draft digitally but since the medium is on 3D canvas it’s never 100% done on paper or digital.

Your tattoos are very art-influenced, do you have a background in art?

I have been studying art from a really young age and I am currently studying Design at Aalto University in order to find more formats and platforms to create.

What inspires you or your work?

Irregularities, things that are out of order. Events, objects, sounds, smells that glitch your daily routine and stops you in your tracks even for a little bit.

There are so many things that do it for me. A good discussion or argument with a friend or stranger. Sad things. Happy things. Uncomfortable things. The realization that we all will die one day.

I see your style as pushing the boundaries of tattoo art, do you have stuff you haven’t tried yet? What would be your dream project?

I’d love to experiment doing as large-scale pieces I can by composing them mainly straight on the spot adding chopping cutting drawing painting straight onto the skin. Something that flows all around and reveals more the closer you look at it. Also, I would love to try and merge traditional formats with tattooing. You’ll see it when you see it.

Can you point out any particular turning points/moments in your career?

Three or four years backward I was traveling a bit around Finland, doing various guest spots, tattooing in basements, art spaces, wherever really. During that time I started to take time to reflect on my own work and how I wanted it to resonate with the outside world. So i stopped to think about what it should be or what others think of it and just went for it and decided to keep a very strict policy on how and what i was going to tattoo and to try and not to compromise it for anything. Started chasing happiness and freedom over money.

What do tattoos and tattooing mean to you?

Freedom. Freedom to be what i want to be and to express myself as i see fit and to help others to find their freedom.

If you should describe your tattoos with one word, what would it be?

I wouldn’t.

Robert Henrik around the internet

Instagram: @robert_henrik