Known as one of the greatest geometric tattoo artists, Isreali Chaim Machlev specializes in a specific technique that consists of using mainly dot and line work. Putting him aside from most modern tattoo artists, he uses geometry as a means of designing each unique tattoo he does on his clients.
He only started getting into the art of tattooing in the spring of 2012, after getting his first tattoo from Avi Vanunu at Psycho Tattoo Studio in Tel Aviv, where he is from. Chaim found this to be one of the strongest impacts on his life and said that the tattoo procedure itself was very spiritual and life-changing. This motivated him strongly to get into the art form.
Machlev dove straight into the industry without any formal training, even lacking much experience in normal art like drawing.
He was never an artist as a youngster and said that the only art-form he ever practised during his life, was playing guitar as a hobby. He was never attracted to tattoos or the art of tattooing until he decided to get one himself. He mentions in an interview that he could not explain why he suddenly decided to get a tattoo, and that he thinks that there comes a time in everyone’s life where they think about getting a tattoo, however small or pointless it may be. Little did he know that this decision to get inked would drastically change his life and lead him into a major, life-changing career move.
Later he decided to move to Berlin, Germany from Isreal as it seemed much more realistic to learn the art of tattooing there instead of in Tel Aviv. Chaim had sold everything and left everything behind to move to Berlin, but finding a place to live in Germany was way harder than he expected it to be. After three months of couch surfing, he eventually found a
place to stay and began focussing on the hunt for a tattoo studio that would take him in. He went out into Berlin, looking for a studio to work and learn at with no portfolio or any proof of previous work.
Finally he found a studio where the owner let him have a small room at the back of the shop to practice in when he had time away from cleaning the equipment and keeping the place tidy.
He usually ended up practising on German punks who did not care much about how their tattoos came out or even how roughly or crudely they were done. Roughly two months later he had become a lot more comfortable and skilled with his tattooing equipment, so that he could mainly start focussing on developing his own style and improving his skill. Once he had mastered this he began garnering his own clients at the shop and making a name for himself in the area.
When asked to describe his style on many occasions, Chaim stated that it is very hard for him to categorize his style as a certain tattoo style but would best desrcibe it as “minimalistic and weird”. A lot of his work is very detailed due to the geometric nature of his designs. He is known to find the perfect balance between fine, minimalistic line work pieces and very detailed mandalas. His minimalistic line work designs stem from the fact that, all his life, he had been very digitally and computer orientated, whereas his detailed mandala work comes from his deeply spiritual side.
Most of his line work pieces are designed freehand and this process usually takes much longer to complete than the actual tattooing of the piece. Machlev prefers each client’s tattoo experience to be a very strong, personally enlightening experience because, in his opinion, it then brings more meaning to each piece. Each tattoo he has ever done has been original as it pertains to the individual customer.
Though he uses the same techniques in his designs, he makes a point of it to experiment with new ideas on a daily basis. As a very spiritual man, he finds inspiration for his work mainly in nature, people and, of course, sacred geometry as a main factor.
Chaim is also very strict on using only black and grey ink when tattooing as he believes “it is the only colour scheme that would look truly timeless on a timeless design”. Obviously his pursuit of perfection in line and detail acts as the perfect precursor to the spiritual impact of the geometric shapes on those who wear it.