From St. Petersburg to Prague, on a path filled with light and darkness, strange and mysterious creatures, elves, contemporary fairies, and so much more.
This is the starting point for the development of Alexander Grim’s art, and in this interview he shared some important observations with us which helped better define his very powerful black style. During our chat Alexander touched on some lofty concepts: Plato, Scandinavian Noir, Rambeau, and a constellation of traditional characters linked to Russian folklore.
You can read the full interview by M.B. on the July/August issue of Tattoo Life magazine.
Alexander, you’ve made a name for yourself in the tattoo sector with your very powerful black work. How did you decide to focus on this particular style?
At a certain stage, I just left only black in my palette. You cannot imagine how comfortable it is for travelling! But seriously, the color black in tattoos is the most traditional and durable, and it allows us to create the maximum contrast on the body. In a sense, it is also the most neutral and harmonious color on the skin, and it allows me to focus more on a silhouette that works well even from a distance. Because of this, I stopped using a background in order to further enhance the readability of the whole composition.
I love color in principle, but I’m not always happy with how colored ink looks on the skin after a certain number of years.
What led you to making this kind of work?
For me personally, a tattoo has always been a manifesto, a personal statement about something. Like a coat of arms, if you please. This is the exact effect I’m striving for. A clear, understandable, and at the same time quite complex image in combination with the relative simplicity of the subject itself.
You were born in St. Petersburg, Russia. Did you spend time in a certain kind of crowd which influenced you, and got you interested in tattooing?
I started making my first tattoos for my friends in the black metal scene when I was 14 years old. Then I became very much inspired by the idea of doing something on my own body that would remain for my entire life. I thought that since a tattoo remains for your entire life, you should pay more attention to what will stay relevant throughout your life. These thoughts let me to reading some books on symbolism and history, and made me look closer at old prints, and so on.
You know, a tattoo is just like a time-tested antique that only looks better after years.
Or it can be a strong and attractive symbol which will always make you feel good. St. Petersburg is definitely a very beautiful and noble northern city; it’s one of the important cultural centers with a deep and unique decadent atmosphere. There used to be a lot of amazing poets and artists living here. In many ways, this influenced my perception of the world, of course.
Where are you working at the moment?
I live in Prague now, which is a very comfortable and cozy place for me. There are all these amazing castles and fortresses here; deer, pheasants, and peacocks walk around in the parks and there are flowers everywhere, so many beautiful, natural spaces.
The images you create are quite complex and full of details. How do you construct your pieces? What’s the most important and delicate aspect of creating a tattoo like yours?
The most difficult and important aspects for me are having a clear idea, and building the composition. I still think that a good idea in a tattoo can be expressed with only two or three words. For example, “a snake, a bowl, and a peony” or “a dragon with chrysanthemums” and so on. It sounds rather simple, but the creation of my projects takes a lot of time. I think a good tattoo really does require a certain amount of time to prepare. I prefer to think things through beforehand, and I never work free hand.
What fuels your imagination?
Many things. When I draw, I like to listen to lectures on philosophy, the history of religion, sociology, history, and so on. I listen to audio books a lot. It makes the imagination work and gives you an understanding of certain things. I also adore wildlife – forests, rivers with waterfalls, the mountains. It’s very important for me to visit such places. You walk at night along a mountain pass somewhere in Iceland, and suddenly you hear the crackle in the bushes off to the side… your imagination definitely starts to work, trust me! If you’ve ever read any old Icelandic fairy tales, then you’ll understand what I mean.
And what can you tell me about your interests? Music, hobbies, etc. How would you describe yourself to someone who doesn’t know you?
Regarding music, I’m afraid that if I started talking about that there simply wouldn’t be enough space for it in this interview! My day may start with a song like The Path to Valhalla by Zergananda or Isengard and end up with The Cure. And my day may end in a techno club, or with a book and a glass of wine, or maybe I’ll sit somewhere with someone and discuss Arthur Rambeau’s “The Drunken Boat”. I don’t know, anything is possible… As for my other interests, I like everything related to military culture up to the 16th century: knights, enchanted worlds, mythology, metaphysics of the sexes, magic, alchemy, 19th century decadent poetry, and all sorts of strangely-beautiful things. And also: when I have my own house near a beautiful river and a lot of free time, I’ll definitely plant many strange flowers all around and do some fly fishing. I’ll get a huge gray wolf, make him an Instagram page, and respond to the comments under the photos on his behalf.