Currently reading : Interview with Glue Sniffer
Arek Barankiewicz better known as Glue Sniffer is the 28 year old Polish tattooer working from Warsaw. His use of intense reds, super bold lines and slightly unsettling appropriations of classic flash have been causing more and more interest over the last couple of months through the posting of his work on different internet platforms. Here we speak about the tattoo scene in Poland, what inspires him and what the ‘polish sadness’ in his work means.
How long have you been tattooing for and how did you get into it?
I started tattooing about four years ago but my first contact with a tattoo machine took place a few years before that. I used to mess around on the skin of some of my friends, but I had decided to set aside all the “tattoo plans” and got rid of all tattooing equipment. After some time had passed I got persuaded into coming back and started everything over from the beginning, tattooing volunteers in a room, which I was renting.
I got interested in tattoo art, when I was in high school, I liked browsing tattoo magazines. It was about 13 years ago, so most of those Polish magazines were dominated by tribal tattoos or poorly done realistic portraits.
It’s hard to get interested in the tattoo art when there are only horrible examples, right? Even the decision about getting my first tattoo had come after many years. I clearly remember my first visit to a tattoo shop, when my friend was getting his first piece. It’s hard to forget a visit to the tattoo studio, which was just a space separated in the beauty parlour and tattoo “artist” himself looked truly dissatisfied with the fact, that someone came in asking for a tattoo. When my friend chose the design (from the catalogue of course), the “artist” disappeared behind the curtain and made a sound of a jaded person – something between a curse and a sigh. You know… something like the sound, which you make when you do something for a really long time, it becomes a routine and you decide to give it up. So he disappeared for half an hour and after few years I found out he was a heroin addict. So over all it was a pretty dis-heartening experience.
What is the tattoo scene in Poland like?
The tattoo scene in Poland is getting bigger and better each year and in my opinion it’s heading in the right way. I’m not much involved in it personally, but there’s a lot of very talented and world famous artists. Tattooists in Poland are mostly working with portraits and realistic tattoos, but more has started to happen in a neo-traditional category. More and more young people are grabbing needles and are starting to re-interpret the traditional school of tattooing , which personally makes me really happy.
New tattoo conventions are showing up lately and are taking place in nine cities in Poland, where three of them are on a really high level both on an artistic and organizational level. A good thing is the fact that a lot of foreign tattoo artists are visiting our country, which is a nice change considering the very popular migration tendency in Poland.
Who have you been tattooed by?
I was tattooed mostly by the artists and friends from Poland like: Marcin DomaÅ„ski, Marcin Surowiec, Leszek BTS, Jakub Kujawa, Aga Jadu, Slawomir Nitschke, and few others like Greg Briko from France, Jonas Pedersen from Sweden and Jirka Keclik from the Czech Republic.
Why the name ‘Glue Sniffer?’
It’s from the Ramones song ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’.
Which tattooers inspire you? You seem to particularly like a lot of pre-1950s American tattooers?
I dig many old flash tattooers and I try to buy albums with olds school works and search in the internet for interesting pieces from people as much as I can. I love Bert Grim, Milton Zeiss, Owen Jensen, Percy Waters, Bob Shaw and Stoney. I know that it doesn’t sound all that innovative, because a lot of tattooers get inspired by their art but they are incredible. I also love tattoo artists from Sweden (Jonas Nymberg, Joel Madberg, Cezilia Hjelt), Italy (Rudy, Miss Arianna) and Spain (Deno, Monga, Rotor) and art of Daniel Higgs, Matt Bivetto etc. I also get inspired by old criminal tattoos seen on old people, who pass me by on the street. It shows how meaningful those simple, poorly done patterns are. No matter how they look, they’re still expressive and full of charm.
What inspires me the most is the opportunity to work with other tattoo artists – peeking on them during their work and getting to know their attitude towards tattoo art is at this moment, somehow my main influence in my works.
How important is the process of drawing and painting to your work?
The process of drawing itself is very important – I try to draw often to make my style more clear-cut. I’m trying to express more, by using less. Sometimes it’s hard, because of my education – I care too much about proportions and that’s what I’d like to get rid of. Drawing lets me express my feelings on paper and look for other ways to express myself. As I said before – clarifying my style is what I care about the most right now and drawing flash is what helps me to achieve it.
There is an sinister undertone to your work, is this something that you are aware of, and if so why is this?
I wouldn’t say my work is sinister – there is rather a grief or sadness standing behind them. One of my friends (also a tattoo artist) told me recently, that one of his foreign friends thinks, that it’s a kind of “polish sadness” that makes my works unique – which is kinda true. Of course I’m basing my work on traditional american tattoo art, but I’m trying to fill it with my feelings, my identity and what I’m trying to express.
Do you plan to do guest spots around Europe?
I’d love to! So far I’ve been on a guest spot in France and at few tattoo shops in Poland. I try to make contact with tattoo artists from other countries and hope that it’ll result in more trips. But if I do you can see on my Instagram or Facebook!
Find out more abput Glue Sniffer by following him on
Instagram here: www.instagram.com/gluesniffer
Facebook here: www.facebook.com/unknowngluesniffer
On tumblr here: www.gluesnifferelectric.tumblr.com