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A Losing Battle - Singapore Tattoo Industry

I wanna start off this post by saying the views expressed in this post is mine alone and it shouldn't be linked to the Singapore tattoo community. If at any point you feel that I'm out of line, you can go right ahead and click the little 'x' to close this tab or browser. Cool?

While having dinner earlier, I received a text message from my friend Nash about a news segment he saw on the Channel 5 news. His first message was to inform me that our local news covered the recent Bangkok Tattoo Convention. I lost my freaking appetite when I read that message. I can't begin to express how upset I am. Listen, I don't have anything against the Bangkok convention. What I am upset about is the fact that our very own made in Singapore Tattoo Show wasn't covered by our Singaporean news network!

Why you might ask? Well, the highest powers in Singapore have ensured that there is a media blackout regarding tattoos. That's the reason why there was hardly any coverage about the recent Singapore Tattoo Show. That's a fucking fact and nobody can deny that! One would think that this 'media blackout' would apply to all things tattoo right? But no that clearly isn't the case!

Some of you might remember that I appeared in the first issue of Flash Ink Tattoo Magazine Singapore last year. It was an honor and I have so many good things to say about the people behind the mag. Unfortunately, the magazine isn't in distribution anymore. Unlike other magazines, a certain government agency refused to allow Flash Ink to be sold at newsstands. BUT, the same agency allows the sale of foreign tattoo magazines. I say that because I have seen these tattoo magazines on sale at Borders and elsewhere. Does this make sense to you? What ever happened to supporting your OWN people?!

I just watched a re-run of that news segment over on Channel News Asia. Chris Garver, Tim Hendricks and Shige were mentioned, two foreign artists were interviewed and they showed a bunch of people getting tattooed. Oh yeah, they showed the tattoo contest on stage too!

It is messed up when you begin to feel like a freaking outcast. And because I love this country, it stings even more. Seriously, I am more hurt and than anything else. I have so many good friends that are tattoo artists. How would you feel if the industry you work in is labeled a 'bad influence on society'?? The biggest joke is that there's hardly any truth to that.

I've said this a long time ago. If the government truly wants to fix the problem, they should implement some rules/laws. For starters, there should be a law that prohibits a person under the age of 18 from getting a tattoo. Once they do that, they can start issuing fines or jailing anyone that breaks the law. That is what we do to anyone that doesn't follow rules in this country right?!

If things don't change in Singapore, I'll make the hard decision to move to another country. I owe it to myself to ensure I don't grow old and sour. I dread the day I become like one of those taxi drivers that do nothing but complain about Singapore. I sure as hell don't want to hate this country either. If only things were easier...


  1. Noel,

    Our society still can't change it mindset. Even some old man still have old thinking and just don't want bad cultures to influence our youth. Then in this case he might as well ban MTV, CNN, etc.

  2. Hey Noel...I can totally understand how you feel. In fact I was surprised that the tattoo convention here was not known to a number of people. I was watching news last night too and my friend said "wah.. so cool the tattoo convention in thailand... " then I told her that singapore recently had a tatt convention here too but obviously she didnt know about it. The only news I saw was all the online stuff. Its hard to survive and get real publicity and exposure as an artist here in singapore. I was a practising artist for years and I was working a full time job to support that passion. You need to be this or that or have this qualification or experience in order to meet requirement even for sponsorship/ grant for an exhibition. How about setting up a tattoo arts community in singapore? Thats how the singapore arts community started years back.

  3. That's a fantastic idea by ling!

    Unfortunately s'pore is trying to upkeep a certain image that I don't think the people of our generation care for. It's the baby boomer generation that live in fears and "what ifs". I'm sure things will change over time and it will be a frustrating learning curve. For myself, I had to leave Singapore to realise that I love it!

  4. Hey Ju'eta.

    I am sure it will get better. my time to now is about 8 to 9 years. Back then arts community was also very small but they stuck together. Today, "The artist village " is known in the arts circle and its come a long way but they are made a difference in the arts community. I really think the tattoo community will make the same difference and starting the community also paves the way for the future.

  5. Hey Noel,
    Just to soothe ya alitlle, you might be happy to know that the Bangkok Tattoo Covention were organised by our very own local tattoo studio, GimmeLove Tattoo.

    Here, check out their web.

    Well, guess we can't have the cake and eat it too, but at least we can be proud it was organised by our Sg side.


  6. I totally agree! If tattoos are a bad influence then MTV is equally as bad! In fact, losts of teens love the tattoos on Prison Break. They might as well ban that show as well. Along with David Beckham, Rihanna, Lil Wayne, etc... Morons! Lol...

  7. Hey Ling! LOTS of people didn't know the convention was on. I had people come up to me AFTER it was over asking when it'll be held this year. WTF right?

    How does one set-up an arts community?

  8. Sooner or later this new generation is gonna fight back. I can already feel the angst when I talk to some of these people...

    I'll always love this country babes. But I can't stand how it's run sometimes. I do know that every country has it's own faults and problems...

    If you had to choose between Australia and Singapore, which will it be?

  9. It was?? Wow! I knew Lional was involved in the planning process of the KL convention that didn't happen last year. Kudos to them for pulling off the Bangkok Convention.

    Thanks for the info Ben!

  10. Maybe it is because this tattoo event was covered by news papers last year and it does not bring in $$$, which is the main point. If it is some thing like sentosa ir opening on 20th Jan 2010 and it has many high end shops to bring in tourist $$$ or singapore air show, even if it is held once every 2 years, the tv and channel news asia will cover it non stop, evidence is the singapore air show coming 2nd Feb 2010 to 7th Feb 2010, open to public 6 to 7th Feb 2010. It brings in big $$$.

  11. Hey Noel,

    It was our pleasure to feature you in the first ish. FlashINK was, and still is, the work I'm proudest of. The whole team is grateful to you and everyone else that helped us out in our sadly short run -- whether it was our featured artists and models, our contributors, or just anyone who supported us by picking up an issue. 

    It still upsets me that we couldn't keep the mag going, but you wouldn't believe the ridiculous grin on my face after I read your post. It's REALLY nice to know that we'll be missed.

    Thanks for always backing us up, helping us out, and being as fucking pissed off as we are at the demise of FlashINK. You're partly the reason why I refuse to shut down the magazine's blog and want to do something else tat-related with it eventually. 

  12. Hey Wayne!!!
    I just want you guys to know that <span> FlashINK was an awesome magazine. It had great content and it's really unfortunate that there were so many obstacles. </span>

    If there's anything I can do for ya'll, just let me know. Always here to help brotha! Keep me posted on the blog yeah?

  13. I was actually surprised when I asked a friend of mine who's a journalist if she would be covering the event and she said no, and that news outlets generally don't.  To be fair, this was done against her will and I think she attended as a member of the public anyway.

    That said, is it not the law that you have to be 18 to get a tattoo? I thought it was, but hey I've been wrong about a lot of things.

    It's appalling how in some ways SIngapore is open minded and progressive and in so many other archaic ways, it's still conservative.  Thank god for blogs right?

  14. hey Noel,

    Its actually easy and tough at the same time. You dont need to register the name until much later. you will need a few like minded people who is interested in building " Tattoo Community", of coz u need a commitee and then start building projects that gets participation from the tatto artists. Its basically functions like an organization, you can also consider working with visual artists to promote tattoo arts. all kinds of projects can be done. With your contacts and connection, its not that difficult to get publicity and spread awareness about tattoo arts. You can also try to approach SCAPE for a venue to exhibit body art. all kinds of things to try. approach the society on education terms and interactive. Tattoo arts and visual arts is very similar.  

  15. Hey dude,

    Posted the link to the blog on your FB wall. Lots of interviews and columns coming up. If you wanna contribute a column, just get in touch. Would love to feature something by you.

  16. Awesome bro! I'll love to do that! We'll work something out for sure.

  17. Hey Tabbs! Sorry I didn't reply to your comment sooner. I didn't get an email notification about this one. Grrr....

    I don't blame the journalists for not covering the event or anything else tattoo related. It's not within their power. It's the people higher up. Then again, even they don't call all the shots! I remember doing a short interview with a Chinese daily paper and the reporter went through a lot of shit to get the article out.

    Hmm, we don't have a law regarding the legal age to get tattooed. I've been pushing for one along with some basic studio requirements. But it's taking forever!

    Well, Singapore is working towards being the modern city it claims to be. It's taking longer than expected but I'm sure we'll get there. Blogs are supposed to be the new media. It sure is working for me =)


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