Why do you tattoo rather than leave an indelible mark on, say, regular canvas?
My works must walk out in the streets. They are alive; they are touched and kissed by people; they help people and give them positive feelings. I don’t know how to define it exactly, but it is more than art—I don’t want my works to be stored or stuck in some building to rust and rot.
What is it like tattooing in Turkey, an Islamic country?
Istanbul is a cosmopolitan city, but no matter how open-minded people are, they may still be affected by the dogmatic and narrow-minded thoughts of conservative life. The reason why I started and continued my destiny [of tattooing] … is to teach those people. I receive job offers and invitations to guest spot from all over the world, but I insist on performing my art in an Islamic country such as Turkey because I want to show people that their prejudices and fears toward the art of tattooing are needless.
But isn’t marking flesh against Islamic teaching?
Deforming the body is forbidden in Islam, and people do care about it—but they drink alcohol, smoke weed, and commit adultery even though those are also forbidden.
Do you see any improvements in society in terms of perception of the art of tattoo?
The society is definitely moving forward, not back. I can see that.
What do you foresee for yourself and tattooing in the future?
I’d like to start some sort of educational organization—books, seminars, DVDs—to help change what I think is wrong with the system and perception of my country. The more I advance in my career, the more I would like to be of use. It’s obvious that art—starting in the Ottoman era—has never received adequate support from the government or the society. I think it’s my duty to bring awareness to art.