Artist Highlight: Georgina Leung

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Georgina Leung has only been tattooing for a short while, but she's already making waves in the industry. Working out of Rose of Mercy in London, Georgina's work draws inspiration from Asian heritage, giving the ESEA community a place within tattooing to celebrate where they came from. 
Images by Chelsea Pineda
You are a super creative, artistic person; was tattooing a career you considered from a young age, or did tattooing find you later on?
I actually really wanted to start my tattoo career at 18 but unfortunately I had very concerned parents due to cultural stigma attached to the industry and my immigrant parents didn’t see it as a viable career path. So as a compromise, I went to Edinburgh College of Art instead and wound up in the jewellery industry for 7 years before covid hit and actually changed my career path for good. 

What was your journey to becoming a tattoo artist like? 

It was very organic and born out of a need for change to be honest. I was in a really strange headspace with very little love for myself and my capabilities. I decided to start drawing again and hand poking myself as a way to rekindle my passion for learning new creative skills, as well as a form of wellbeing and therapy. I looked to the greats in the industry all the time but felt there was a severe lack of POC representation, which drove me to continue and persevere. 

Your work draws on Asian culture and heritage, allowing wearers to express where they are from through your joyful art. Do you think the stigma attached to tattoos that exists in much of Asia is changing?  

I really do believe it is changing. It may be a slow and arduous process however as different Asian cultures have such strong preconceived notions of what tattoos mean, passed on through generations. For example in Thailand and Bali, tattoos are not necessarily frowned upon. Whilst Korea still technically makes it illegal and difficult to practise tattooing. I have found my work definitely appeals to the diaspora communities and immigrant mindset more so, because it is those people that question their identity both within their native country and also their current surroundings in a new unfamiliar culture.   

Tattooing as an industry still has huge problems around representation and diversity. Has this impacted your career path, or do you feel like positive change might finally be happening? 

I think this has actually been a huge motivation not only in myself as an individual but also a lot of people in the ESEA communities have probably been lacking imagery and iconography they relate to and feel affinity with. Therefore never viewing tattooing as an option to express themselves with or as a career. I have seen so many self-taught, new POC artists come through recently and they’re changing what constitutes as a tattoo and what it truly means to wear one. My mindset when learning to tattoo was one of frustration and anger towards a career laced with racist backlash and systemic prejudice. So to find an industry and artform that creates a genuine and stripped back interaction between creator and receiver has been incredibly rewarding.  

Have you tattooed anywhere other than in London, and do you have any plans for guest spots/conventions in the future? 

I am still so new to the industry and only been solidly tattooing full time for a year that I have only really done one guest spot in Cardiff. However I am actually headed for New York in a few weeks time to guest spot there and also meet and greet some really amazing Asian tattoo artists I have connected with over Instagram during covid.  

What are your favourite things to tattoo? 

I think people have described my work as wholesome before. So my favourite subjects usually range from animals, fruit, still life scenes to nostalgic imagery. 

When you’re not tattooing, how do you like to spend your free time? 

I am probably your most mundane human, where my free time tends to consist of spending time with my two kittens and my partner. If not that, I am always trying to learn a new creative skill. So recently I am trying my hand at pottery and ceramics. You will often find me wandering around London’s art galleries and eating my body weight in fried goods and snacks.  

Check out Georgina's work on her Instagram @chop_stick_n_poke, and keep an eye out for her guest spots and travels!