Local tattoo artist wins big on world stage

By Patricia Hului
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KUCHING: A local tattoo artist made Malaysia proud by winning the ‘Best Back Piece Award’ at the 7th Alkmaar Tattoo Convention held in The Netherlands on Nov 16-17.

The 31-year-old Eric Kueh, a self-taught tattoo artist who owns 71stskinslavery tattoo studio along Padungan has come a long way since he started professionally seven years ago. He began participating in contests since December 2010 when he won his first award at the Alkmaar Tattoo Convention when it was held in The Philippines. Most of his works are Oriental and Buddhism-inspired.

BEAUTIFUL: Eric Kueh won 'Best Back Piece 2013' at the Alkmaar Tattoo Convention with this piece inspired by Chinese mythology.

BEAUTIFUL: Eric Kueh won ‘Best Back Piece 2013’ at the Alkmaar Tattoo Convention with this piece inspired by Chinese mythology.

The piece that won him the ‘Best Back Piece’ title was inspired by Zhong Kui, or the Ghost King from Chinese mythology.

In old Chinese folklore, Zhong Kui committed suicide after the emperor stripped him of his title, ‘Zhuangyuan’.

Although he had achieved top honours in the imperial examinations, he was stripped of his title due to his ugliness. He was cast to hell and appointed Ghost King because of his shrewdness in capturing and keeping ghosts. Zhong Kui’s friend, Du Ping who sat the examination with him, took his body and buried it. In gratitude, Zhong Kui gave his sister to Du Ping in marriage.

Before winning this competition, Kueh won numerous awards in various countries such as Indonesia, The Philippines, India and Nepal and mostly in the back piece category.

When asked why he preferred this category, Kueh said that the back offers more space for him to illustrate and it is the most challenging category.

“My experience in Alkmaar was interesting itself because it was held in a gothic church,” said Kueh.

This year, the annual competition was held in of Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk, a historical 15th century Protestant Church. Kueh’s win in The Netherlands was his first one in Europe.

When asked where he draws his inspiration from, Kueh said mostly from the Internet, going for conventions and his tattoo artist friends.

Armed with a homemade tattoo machine made out of a radio dynamo and a needle, Kueh first tried his hand in tattooing when he was 14. It was not until seven years ago that he finally took his passion in body art seriously and pursued a career as a tattoo artist.

Just like Zhong Kui who is thankful for his friend Du Ping, Kueh said he was very grateful for his friends that supported him throughout his journey as a tattoo artist. He believes that he wouldn’t be where he is without the help of his friends.

71stskinslavery opens every Monday to Saturday from 12pm to 6pm and Sunday on appointment only. It is located at No. 75, Jalan Padungan, just opposite Padungan Everrise Supermarket. Besides the usual custom tattooing, they also offers laser tattoo removal and temporary tattoos.

Visit their website at www.71stskinslavery.com for more details and photos of his works.

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