“Abstract and geometric. Conceptual and bold. Electric. Dynamic and kinetic. Angular and futuristic while being influenced by vintage graphic design.” – Tattoodo on Ben Volt
Well, in simpler words, Ben Volt is the mould of futuristic thought, fused with ancient science. His art is bold, big, powerful and aesthetic at the same time, but that’s not really the prime attraction of his tattooing. What makes Ben Volt a really cool tattoo artist is the way he perceives the art form, and how he puts that perception to work. Ben says, “Life goes by fast. Especially when all you see is morning and night. The days are lost to tattooing. The nights are lost to designing. You really give up a lot to tattoo. But its freedom. You get to completely call the shots in your life, and its an amazing gift that deserves unwavering respect. People chose to be marked by you. You are connected to them forever.”
For such well-formed opinions, you would imagine this guy to be quite experienced in his craft. Well, he is, but often sends out the impression of much more. “I’ve only been tattooing for 6 years so I can only speak of my time tattooing. My thought is that life is super short. Even in my time, I have kids coming up behind me that tell me I’m an inspiration like I’m an old timer in the scene. Thats kind of weird because I don’t feel like I’ve earned that yet, especially when the people I admire have been tattooing 20-30 years”, notes Ben.
Ben’s love for blackwork comes from the roots of tattooing itself. “It’s so powerful and bold. Ultimate contrast with skin. It translates from across the room. Its clear you had to earn wearing something heavy like that, and it says a lot about a person. When I was getting my first heavy black piece done I felt like such a badass. It makes you carry yourself differently. I like giving that power to people. With heavy blackwork, you either get it, or you don’t.
I love the roots of real Blackwork; all of the beautiful indigenous tribal tattoos. The symbolism. Family. Culture. Beliefs. History. The transcendence of the process. The idea of earning your tattoos. Wisdom. Life experiences. Plus, visually they are amazing and timeless graphics that stand the test of time.”
When you look at the arsenal of tattoos Ben Volt has done, they give this vibe of markings of the tribes of the future. Imagine a time (very possibly) when we choose our own tribes, based on our ideologies and individual beliefs, I feel Ben’s form of tattooing will be the markings of such tribes. While indigenous tattooing is the core of blackwork, Ben’s tattooing is heavily influenced by something else, and not just a futuristic depiction of the ancient forms.
“Anything tied to the powerful and ancient that has a greater meaning. That is the core. I love modern art and contemporary graphic design. That influenced my art a lot. I grew up playing music in the 90s, so grunge music and weird abstract punk and hardcore music further influenced how I see and design. Also, my Dad was a technician who designed circuit boards, so we always had random pieces of that kind of stuff lying around, computers, diodes, weird sci fi movies, etc, so that definitely has been assimilated into my style. The avante garde. Anything indigenous. Obscure tribal tattoos. Patterns, textiles, architecture. Tron. Electricity. Op art. I like to say that my style pays homage and attempts to harnesses the raw power of indigenous blackwork, with a modern/futuristic/graphic design kind of aesthetic. And the universal truth of less is more is always relevant.”
“Tattooing is the hardest thing I have ever done, but also the most gratifying and beautiful gift.”
Ben is a m*****f&#king starboy on Instagram, with over 70k followers, and in my mind, as we were conversing, I knew I had to ask him about the ink and Instagram connect in today’s date.
“I think its like any sort of homogenizing that happens because of our current social/technological/Capitalist global structure. Do I think if it’s good is another question entirely. Technology is definitely a weird thing that I grapple with more the older I get. It definitely has allowed me the success I have with my career, which I am grateful for, but more and more I feel that its a false timeline that will destroy us. Using resources for ultimately trivial things like televisions and cell phones. Fossil fuels for power. Mining up all the rare earth minerals. Nuclear power. Polluting the Earth in the name of progress. Perpetuating on overall sense of “consume”. Cultivating poor attention spans and a normalizing of disposability via a constant tap of images and information.
I feel like the indigenous tribes of the world had it right, and were connected to things in a more all inclusive way. Nature, family, values, spirituality… Things were done for different deeper humane reasons. An awareness of balance with your environment. Now things are done for “likes”. Its a big question you ask, but I will leave it at that for now…”
It is amazing to have a conversation with Ben, because his range of knowledge and understanding of subjects is delightful. While his ideas on technology and the evolution of tattooing are on point, he has also made plans for the hypothetical technological apocalypse. When I asked him what will he do if machines were to take over tattooing one day, he had the best answer to that question till date.
“I hope I’m still tattooing for a long time! Maybe I’ll be the old dude in a hut in the jungle, the one that people will travel many many miles to get tattooed by?! That would be cool. In the end, I just want to be remembered for doing cool original work. 😉
Machines may able to do some of the tattoo jobs but the soul of tattooing is the interaction. The experience shared between two people. The unique vision that can only come from being a complex analog and biological entity with a wealth of real life experience to inform the process and art. You can’t improve upon it. Tattooing as we know it will never go away completely. It’s an intimate experience with a history of connection and ritual.”