Grzegorz “Prykas” Pryka is a major player in the fast-growing Polish tattoo scene, recognized both locally and internationally with awards at various conventions. A longtime painter and sculptor, he got his real start in tattooing in 1996, a time when studios in Poland were few and far between.
By Prykas’s own account, his beginnings were rough. His first attempt at tattooing was working on a friend in 1992 with a sewing needle, tattooing on a park bench for 2 days. The results were not good, and it took years for Prykas to try again. He had no mentor and no professional equipment, just a great deal of drive and natural talent as an artist. At first, he stuck with the sewing needle, then upgraded to a homemade tattoo machine. Eventually he invested in a professional machine, but they were only available in Poland at a very high price – by Prykas’s account, over 10 times what they cost now – and he felt less comfortable using it than his homemade implements.
Now, he’s known worldwide, and his studio (Prykas Tattoo Studio) employs several up-and-coming talents. Prykas’s designs are varied, and he himself claims to have no particular style (and says his favorite artist is nature), but he shines in his dark, gothic designs.
This design is surreal, unsettling, and dark. Note the right side genie’s lamp, out of which are flowing a number of demonic forms – four of them, in fact, overlapping in a cloud of shadow that extends all the way around the torso. One of the souls on the front of the torso is cleverly placed, its open mouth catching the droplets of blood dripping from the fake rip near the right nipple as it grasps the neck of the other. Prykas is a master of the grotesque, and there’s more going on here than initially meets the eye. These are intricate designs that need to be looked at and carefully examined, and each time you look you’re likely to notice a detail you hadn’t seen before.
Prykas has done numerous designs featuring rips and tears, and here a tormented-looking soul is housed within a frame of skeletal bone. It gives the impression of a portal, a deep well inside of the person wearing the tattoo that leads to somewhere terrible. It’s a stirring image, one that certainly stands out from the crowd.
This design shares none of the darkness of the previous ones, but nonetheless has an otherworldly feel to it, something alien despite its beauty. The tendrils of the creature (if it is, indeed, a creature) suggest wings across the shoulderblades, while its twin “tails” flow across the back diagonally to create an image that, while actually only covering a relatively small percentage of the back, uses all of it as the canvas.
There are a lot of crucifixion and religious tattoo designs out there, but Prykas’s take on it is characteristically unique in this design. He gives the cross an extra dimension, for one, then chooses to have it supported and flanked by bodies. Again, there is a surreal and unsettling tone to the image, not at all the norm for crucifixion images. Even the person on the cross receives the same treatment, the rightmost edges of his body inked differently, the left foot turned in just so, as if he is afflicted by some mysterious malady.
Prykas is likely to see more international renown as his work receives greater exposure. And now that he’s training his own apprentices, Poland’s tattoo scene is going to be interesting to watch in coming years.