After ten years of regular western tattooing, it was really a case of creative life and death for me.
I had gradually lost all contact with that glimpse of the true Heart that I had experienced so vividly during those first fumbling trying years, and was caught in a selfsustaining web of increasing delusion. For me, tattooing had become whimsical and only existed as a means of fueling the increasing and confused ego of the beginning new millenmium.
Since the early 90's I had gradually and willingly regressed in my tattooing style, searching for some kind of system, order or content. I had a intuitive understanding of the various urges and needs that drew humankind towards the tattoo, but the attempts made in order to aid the individual in this process seemed unfocused and weak. Where was this true Heart, this fireball in the inner gut? All I saw was a very visual world of tattooing where content came in at the bottom of the list. I am sure that this was not the case for all individuals tattooing and getting tattooed but on the whole, it seemed to be without greater function to me.
The Japanese influence was not an obvious one. At first, I didn't properly acknowledge the attraction, diving in and out of the Irezumi universe, thinking I could come and go as I wanted. I honestly thought I could pick and choose. So I tried and tried and failed again. I felt restless and eager but couldn't grasp that the fault was my own. I was a popular and fairly well known Swedish tattooist with many collegues and a large clientele granting me the freedoom to create almost whatever I saw fit. I honestly imagined myself a true artist. I looked at ink paintings by Hokusai and decided to "fix" them a little, adapting them to my "style". It's embarassing when I look back at those feeble attempts, but I seek comfort in the fact that I was a spoiled brat artistically and spiritually. I had yet to learn about Irezumi, zen and the Heart, and had just begun to polish the brass mirror that still remains somewhat smudged and fogged.
After several years of being this restless ghost floating about, unable to satisfy my hunger, I came to the conclusion that finally did set me free. It was obvious and so very hard to acknowledge at first. I was standing in my way, blocking all chance of hope for a rebirth.
I now understood that I had to let tattooing go in order to attain even the shallowest of understanding of the way of Irezumi. Matti had to die in order for Horimatsu to be born.
I was no longer a popular tattoist with years of experience to support me. I was a newcomer. a newborn and a child. All hope was lost and all I had to do know was to move my feet a quarter of inch forward and begin the rest of my creative life. I never hesitated, even if I doubted, and my gut pointed me in the right direction. Slowly I learned to crawl, then walk, then sit steadily and firmly dedicated, understanding that I never needed to run anymore.