• "The Path" is profiling people living life or doing something off the beaten path.
    • Credits:
    • Directed by: Trevor King and Tony Prescott    |
    • Produced by:    |
    • Screenplay by:
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The path. Rhys gordon

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Rhys Gordon is a tattoo artist. A venerable master in the art of tattooing. He specialises in Japanese artwork.  

Of course he has a full body suit, hidden when clothed but heavily tattooed from the knee up.

His studio, based on those seen in Japan, is a small and surprisingly serene apartment in a residential block on Bondi Road.  It has the customary bed and tools of the trade but is also a shrine to his travels and the Japanese art that he loves. 

Starting at the age 16, at a time when tattooing was viewed with suspicion and favoured by the military, bikey gangs and the darker fringes of society.  He learnt at the hands of his father's best friend and practised by offering free tattoos to kids in the neighbourhood.  His mum thought it was a phase he'd grow out of.

Thankfully for Bondi and the world of tattooing, he did not.  

His clients now are just as likely to be professional people, with ages ranging from early 20s to late 50s.

To have a piece of art permanently adorn their skin is not a decision made in haste, the process is a protracted one allowing considerable time for reconsideration.  Once the client has approached Rhys with an idea, an initial consultation is held, the image is hand drawn, and tracings created up to 2 or 3 times to ensure the fluidity of the design on the body.  Typical design could include koi, dragons, the phoenix, the ocean, even demons and 3 eyed monsters. The actual images themselves can be quite simple and repetitive.  The challenge is skillfully incorporating the background and ensuring it flows on its three dimensional living breathing canvas. 

He may politely decline pieces with what he believes to be particularly negative or detrimental connotations. He refuses to do hands, faces or necks, unless the client is already heavily tattooed or financially secure, laser removal being extremely financially prohibitive and increasingly difficult as the quality of tattooing increases.  He deliberates each case individually, an 18 year old requesting a half sleeve is in his view crazy.  Ultimately he is in the business of doing tattoos which his clients will be proud of for the rest of their lives.

His one room studio accommodates just one client at a time.  Two clients a day, four days a week.  There is a minimum of a six month waiting list.  More than twenty years on from his first crudely drawn banner and flames, Rhys now has the luxury of declining tattoos in order to pursue his true passion for Japanese art.

Rhys loves what he does.

His eyes light up as he talks about continuing to grow and evolve as an artist, learning new techniques, new ways to tweak and improve the clarity of the finished picture, whilst developing the best relationships he can with his customers.

 He has made many friends through his work.  His clients are undertaking a commitment to a piece of artwork which will remain with them for the rest of their lives. One intricate sleeve is twenty hours of not inconsiderable pain, pain with which the heavily tattooed Rhys can empathise. Once the endorphins have kicked in, people tend to open up and talk uninhibitedly, after twenty hours you can’t help build a relationship.

For Rhys a tattoo empowers a person, it validates something in their life. He is happy to facilitate that.

In recent years, tattooing along with other previously considered subversive art forms such as graffiti have had lots of exposure and consequently become very main stream. With a tattoo shop on every corner, he hopes body art will not become so common place as to become undesireable.  He does believe the industry will become more fragmented as artists break away and specialise in different art forms.


Why Bondi?

Rhys likes Bondi, it has been his home for the past 2 years and has everything he needs, being close to both the city and the water.

He describes it as a melting pot of people from all over the world, a hub of creative people.

Despite the familiarity of tattoos today, Rhys’ heavily tattooed body still draws stares on Bondi beach and he introduces himself to new acquaintances as a graphic designer until he has gauged their response.

He is quietly, discreetly passionate about what he does in a place which is home for now.

 . . his mum meanwhile finally come round to what her son does for a living a few years ago though it is unclear if she will be having Rhys indelibly marked on her ankle.  


"The Path" is series profiling people living life or doing something off the beaten path.

Directors: Trevor King and Tony Prescott

Words: Claire Thorne


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