Do tattoo artists put on exhibitions? Why not?! Armed with this non-apologetic attitude and the support of a local bar, Pavel Stefanov Georgiev from Dogma Studio in Sofia, Bulgaria became possibly the first tattooist in Bulgaria to hold an art exhibition.
Pavel is born in the attractive little town of Gabrovo, at the foot of the Balkan Mountains, but his lifelong vocation for drawing took him from a high school for applied arts, to the National Academy of Arts, to a degree in Pedagogy of Fine Arts.
Along the way, tattooing presents itself and it just sticks.
From the first time to hold a machine – about 20 years ago as a half-joke, half-dare – he knows that “This is me! This is my thing.” Even at a time when there are very few studios across Bulgaria, hence few opportunities for apprenticeships, he never compromises with the quality of the art. After filling in at one of Sofia’s oldest studios for a while, opening his own shop seems to be the only way to turn art into a full-time profession. It took him years to set it up, but with skills already recognized by many he quickly got to pick and choose his own clients.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, and we see him surrounded by clients and friends – most of which overlap – drinks in hand, in a casual outdoor setting. If he’s nervous about this bold endeavour, he doesn’t show it. He smiles and chats, and only talks about the works displayed inside when asked.
An artist needs not defend his art.
On display are several of Pavel’s favorite works, blown up in crisp black & white. Practically none of them are commissioned but most have been transferred onto skin soon after he’s published the sketches on his Facebook page. Within days of the posts, people reach out and ask to get his art on their skin.
He explains to me that one girl flew in just to get his skull-in-rose sketch tattooed and then hopped right back on a plane out of Bulgaria. Another exhibit – his rendition of the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland – finds its human canvas in Nürnberg, Germany, during one of Pavel’s semi-regular guest spots at Visavajara Studio.
The gathering seems humble from afar, but the message behind it is a big one – tattooing is an art from beginning to end, and more people should be curious enough to peek behind the curtain.