Meet the queer Indigenous tattoo artist in Sydney behind ‘Something Original’

Mat Fink Something Original
Image: Instagram @mat_fink

Located in the heart of Newtown, Something Original began as the creative endeavour of queer, Gomeroi man Mat Fink.

Hailing from a background as a graffiti artist, Mat has spent the past decade honing his craft, drawing from a broad pool of inspiration – from traditional Indigenous art styles to western animation, from blackwork to watercolour and everything in between.

Now, I catch up with Mat about the art of fostering a connection with community and preserving it in ink.

Home is where the art is

For Mat Fink, Sydney has always been home, even despite growing up in a military family, which found his family moving around frequently.

And despite Mat eventually going on to follow in his father’s footsteps, joining the navy to spend the next travelling once again on deployment, Mat’s roots remained embedded in the Sydney scene specifically, the graffiti art scene.

“I’d say that’s where the majority of the core of my art development came from, my background in graffiti,” Mat tells me.

“My understanding of colour theory came through practical application of graffiti art, which also then went hand in hand with being a part of the hip hop scene, and as a result, I made a lot of acquaintances.

“And it just kind of went from there, that was my foot in the door.”

After a few stints as a tattoo artist in other studios both around Australia and overseas, Mat went on to settle down in Sydney and start up his own: Something Original an apt name for the Indigenous-owned and operated practice.

“The name itself is very much layered,” Mat says.

“The surface one that most people get, is that clients will always come in and ask for ‘something original’.

“But there’s also that deeper layer, given who I am and what my heritage is. Even the term ‘Aboriginal’ is a whitefullas word, but we are original to this place – we’re something original.” 

Fostering community connection

But while Something Original offers a wide array of tattoo styles to explore from, the relationship with the art itself is not so skin-deep.

“I have quite a specific process. I always have a specific consult process before we even get close to the tattoo process,” Mat says.

“It’s just for us to feel eachother out and decide whether or not it’s going to be a good fit. But also to have a yarn about whether your ideas are even possible I’ll get to learn about that person and their mob and learn about their specific cultures, I absolutely love that part of it.

“Quite often, we’ll both walk away with homework rather than a tattoo booking. If you don’t have a strong enough connection with your actual community and culture, I’m like, ‘Well, that should come first before a tattoo’.”

As Mat suggests, more and more Indigenous artists continue to strive for integrity in their storytelling, as a means to preserve the cultural knowledges bound through artwork. But, as he goes on to tell me, this doesn’t just apply to art:

“The last thing you want is for it to feel performative. And I don’t want to come across as gatekeeping, but I feel like there’s a certain level of community responsibility to be authentic, regardless of whether it’s about tattooing or just life in general.

“And some people might be a little bit annoyed by my process, but that’s just where I’ve come to. We could just be a tat factory and churn out whatever anyone wants and make money, absolutely. But that’s quite soul destroying after a while.

“At some point, you eventually want something that is more fulfilling and enriches both your soul and the person that you’re working with.”

Trust the Something Original process

But as Mat tells me, these consultation processes are not just a transaction, but a reflection of the tattoo process itself in which trust is essential.

“It’s a long period of time, it’s an intimate process. And hugely layered with trust.

“You’re literally giving over something of yourself during that process – it’s quite a volatile situation to voluntarily allow yourself to be in pain and pay that person for it.

“But it’s all in the pursuit of authentic connection and storytelling.”

You can check out more of Mat and his incredible work on Instagram at @mat_fink.

Or, check out the Something Original Instagram page to keep in the loop about their upcoming tattoo flash day on September 16th, @somethingoriginaltattoo.

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Nate Woodall

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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