Tattoo Artist Martynas Snioka / About Requests to Mark One’s Origins

When I decided to get inked for the very first time, it was a no-brainer what tattoo precisely should I get; this desire of having my hometown on the body that I could take a look at regardless of time and location had become even stronger after moving abroad.  Even though tattooing served as an important practice in some cultures already years ago, only recently we started witnessing a vast number of individuals marking their identities here in the Baltic countries. “How will it look like when you grow old?” attitude is not a thing anymore as well as stigmas regarding tattoos that are fading away. There are some people who see these transitions better than anyone else and I am talking with one of them – Vilnius - based tattoo artist Martynas Snioka. 

by MARIJA SINICAITE

cover photo credit MATAS DAUGINIS

photos MARTYNAS SNIOKA 

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Please tell a bit about yourself, how did you find yourself in this craft? 

Back in the day, I was studying Fine Arts in London, hence I was working quite a lot with body art - painting on human bodies, to be more exact. Seeing models washing out the paintings that were spent five hours to create has woken up this inner urge to start creating something long-lasting. After one school break, my classmate came back having a tattoo and I simply got this idea to learn this craft. After the graduation, I moved back to Lithuania, found a studio, a teacher and headed to Siauliai...

 

Lately, the number of people getting inked has been increasing rapidly. What is the main factor, in your opinion, of tattoos becoming so mainstream today?

Well, this number has been consistently increasing in other countries for quite many years now. I would say that this popularity, that we are talking about now, became so visible in Lithuania and other more conservative countries since the attitude towards tattoos are altering and society is transitioning towards being more open-minded here. Tattoos became attractive not only for the younger generation; older people from different professional fields are also getting inked today. We are finally shifting away from the stereotypes that only criminals are getting tattoos...

 

The differences between various cultures shaped the dominant style across regions. The American, Japanese, Egyptian styles etc. were born specifically in certain places but today they are adopted all over the globe. How about the Baltic countries? Which style is the most popular here?

In Lithuania, people often choose folk, Baltic and even Slavic motives that they would like to have it on their bodies. Wolves, woods, foxes and other similar symbols of Lithuanian nature are also pretty trendy now. Globally though, the most dominant style is the realistic one as it is easily relatable to everyone.

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 How would you describe your personal style and how did you develop it?

The style that I work on is rather dual: one is graphic made of lines, dotwork, strokes, whereas the other is completely opposite - watercolor painting.  Colors and its overflows dominate and there are no contours as in the graphic style.  I often try to combine both techniques into the one while making a tattoo.

 

Being of the utmost importance for marking identities a thousand of years back, today the Tribal style tradition is mostly just a matter of trend - the majority adopt this style just because it looks attractive. However, recently the folk style became pretty hyped in Latvia. Don’t you find it as a paradox that Latvians began aiming to identify their cultural roots only now while some cultures used to do that ages before? Share your thoughts.

Not only Latvia is experiencing this hype, to be honest; I would say that all over the globe people started turning back to their cultural heritage. When I was working in Canada, a lot of my clients were first or second-generation Canadians and absolutely all of them wanted to have a tattoo representing their origins, history, and ancestors. The same as Latvians, Lithuanians are also really into marking the nationalism just a bit differently, not necessarily using the folk style in their tattoos but as I mentioned previously, woods, wolves and other symbols.

 

How about Lithuanians and Estonians? Are they also experiencing the same phase of the need to mark their cultural background?

No doubts! There is only a difference in expressions since it can be done through various symbols - nature, animals, and even architecture. In general, Baltic people became way more open regarding inking; more young tattoo artists emerge in this scene simply because there is a need for it. Also, individuals are not concealing their tattoos anymore and even are up for bigger projects.

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 Someone asked you to tattoo a cold beetroot soup. What other similar/odd inquiries have you received and how do you feel about it?

Oh yes, and it is a great example since the client was Lithuanian American and this way he wanted to mark his origins. I’ve had quite a lot unusual inquiries - raw stake pierced with a knife, a piglet milling itself in a meat grinder, an eggplant etc. Honestly, I like to tattoo weird stuff as the odder tattoo is, the more thrilling process I have inking it. 

 

You also do some street art. What message do you try/want to channel through your works?

Street art is my hobby and I am not trying to send any kind of disguised messages or meanings through it. I do it just for myself and take it as a chance to run away from my routine. Every day I do some small art pieces - tattoos that precisely are hand-sized drawings, whereas street art allows me to create in a bigger scope and this contrast also amazes me. 

 

Do you think that cultural aspect also plays a role for the street artists and the way it might be perceived by the audience?

It might indeed, however, it strongly depends on the artist, if he/she aims to focus on it as well as I believe that every viewer interprets art differently and sometimes even sees a message that actually wasn’t there at all. 

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