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Mirko Sata
Snake tattoo, in black and white inkMirko Sata

Meet the fine art grad tattooing with ‘tacky’ white ink

Mirko Sata dispels the idea that white ink tattoos aren’t cool through the use of his bold, eye-catching designs

For most tattoo artists, white ink is the Antichrist — summoned by Lindsay Lohan getting the unholy triumvirate of the word “breathe” tattooed upside down on her wrist in white in 2006. After a decade of people following suit and receiving very mixed results, the white ink tattoo debate is still ongoing, with many tattoo artists refusing to use it on principle. But some contend that white ink itself isn’t to blame, it’s unskilled tattoo artists, poor quality ink, and neglectful aftercare that cause shitty tattoos — just like with any other kind of tattoo. Indeed, when done right by specialists like Watson Atkinson, white ink can look subtle and otherworldly.

Milan’s Mirko Sata is another tattoo artist making a name in white ink. He firmly rejects the rules established by fussy traditionalists, disrupting the tattoo scene with his bold designs that look just as good on skin as they do on his custom streetwear. His signatures are studies in duality — vivid black silhouettes against delicate white, snakes entwined with alchemy symbols, mysticism mixed with contemporary fashion. Some of his studio’s more intricate and esoteric designs peek out from Supreme briefs and Nike checks on his Instagram.              

Sata (real name Mirko Augugliaro), 28, comes from a fine arts background, with a degree in “scenography” from the Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti Milano. He taught himself tattooing, buying equipment and then working at home for five months before joining a studio on a freelance basis, helped on the way by many friends in the industry who saw his potential. He has now tattooed for four years, works at a studio called Satatttvision that he set up with his “brothers” and has a clothing line in the works. We caught up with Sata to talk about white ink’s reputation, innovation and experimentation, and traditional versus contemporary forms of tattooing. 

How would you describe your tattoo style?

Mirko Sata: I would like to say “esoteric vanguard,” a contemporary version of the esoteric aesthetics. I like to reinvent the classic shapes by contaminating them with new art forms and the fashion world.

From which sources do you draw your inspiration? 

Mirko Sata: Esotericism, mysticism, symbolism. These 3 “isms” are my richest sources also because they are instruments to decode the signs of my oneiric world, my other source of inspiration. I like to mix this conceptual world with my taste for aesthetics like contemporary art and fashion. I believe that inspiration comes especially from a state of mind like love. My muse (and girlfriend) Ilenia Lai makes me vibrate on my most inspired frequency. I haven't a specific source of inspiration, I get inspired by the concept of fashion instead of specific brands or designers. I could look out from my balcony and be inspired by the gothic architecture of Milan or by the colours of a Highsnobiety post.

Why all the black and white? Why all the snakes?

Mirko Sata: Black and white are simply a symbol of dualism, in everything there is the seed of the opposite.

All the snakes come from my dreams, my most frequent dream and it’s also the common denominator of all the cultural arguments I previously spoke about. Between all these interpretations, there is one I like the most: the tripartition (3 snakes for the soul, mind, and body). Lastly, they are beautiful and decorative, perfect to adapt on bodies since I make them all in freehand. 

There's this assumption by many, including tattoo artists, that white ink should not be used by itself, that it will age badly, yellow, and generally look like shit. What's your response to that and why do you think white ink tattoo has such a bad rep?

Mirko Sata: First of all, the healed result of white ink depends on the skin type and the ink brand – the more pale the skin, the more brilliant the white. I already knew that it can’t be white forever, but that wasn’t even my intention in fact. My purpose is a borderline aesthetic between scarification and branding, but cleaner. This gives to the tattoos a more ethereal, fascinating and magical look. I don’t care about collective thinking, I like to experiment and evolve.

“Black and white are simply a symbol of dualism, in everything there is the seed of the opposite” – Mirko Sata

Do you think there's a conflict between traditional old-school tattoo artists who went through apprenticeships and self-taught, trendsetting artists like yourself who break tattoo “rules”?

Mirko Sata: There isn’t a real conflict but only frustration from those who are stuck in their stale convictions. How can something like tattoos be restricted into several defined laws? Nowadays it isn’t an applied art anymore but just art…art has no rules! I respect traditional old-school tattoo artists and so they should have respect for those who are choosing a different way. We have different purposes, mine isn’t to follow a specific code of rules but only my art identity. Traditional old-school tattoo artists, most of the time, feed their arguments by the story of tattooing itself because this is their origin, meanwhile those like me feed their shit by the art itself and that means that my arguments have more solid roots than their lines.  

Are there any tattoos that you will refuse to do?

Mirko Sata: The ones on genitals.

Has there been a resistance from the majority/the industry towards your innovative style?

Mirko Sata: No resistance at all, it was appreciated straight away. Nowadays people are more open minded about it.