Scar face just took on a whole new meaning. Scarification, a process which involves penciling a design on the body, grafting off the skin and letting the scab harden into a unique design, has taken a niche community by storm.
Yann Brenyak is the man behind scarification. Scrolling through his Tumblr and Instagram feeds reveals dozens of photos of him peeling his clients’ skins off or inserting metal implants into their chests. He has developed a cult following for his work, which blurs the line between art and body mutilation.
According to his Facebook page, Brenyak was trained by a professional surgeon, which is nice to know whenever someone is removing chunks of skin from your face with a scalpel. Although skin removal and scarification isn’t new, Brenyak has been playing with the idea through skin graphic portraits.
Putting the scar in scare
Thus far, the Swiss-born London-based artist has over 15,000 followers on Instagram. Brenyak’s work isn’t for the faint of heart, but he insists that what he does is no worse (or better?) than having a nose piercing or face-lift.
“This is not any more extreme than someone getting plastic surgery, and it’s less painful,” he told Vice in an interview. “People go through much more pain by going to the gym every day trying to be a mass of muscle, and to many, covering your body with ink or scars can be more helpful or beneficial when it comes to making people feel good in the skin they were born in,” he continued.(1)
The seeds of Brenyak’s interest in body modification were planted during his childhood, when he first saw a heavily tattooed person performing a body suspension, which involves hanging the human body with piercings through the skin. Brenyak was hooked.
As a child, Brenyak’s father denied his request to get a tattoo on the grounds that he was too young. His stepmother fostered his deep-seated desire to have a tattoo by covering his back with henna ink. Afterwards, his mild interest in tattoos ballooned into a full-blown obsession.(1)
“Changing my body has been a desire deep inside me for my entire life,” he said. “It’s always been exciting to me that you can alter your body however you’d like and make fantasy a reality.”(1)
Brenyak trained as a body piercer at the studio Tribe Hole in Switzerland. During this time, he met body mod artist Lukas Zpira, and became his apprentice. He learned a variety of body modification techniques with ease, including astransdermal implants, scarification and flesh branding.
Sweet dreams are made of ink
Brenyak began practicing scarification on his own legs. He completed his first successful graphic skin portrait – an image of Björk – in 2013. Since then, he has used this method to design dozens of ghostly faces and geometric designs.(1)
“The graphic portrait style is his baby and he’s the master of it,” said another BM artist named Shiva, referring to Brenyak’s work. “I have seen a few people try to do it, but never to the same effect.”(1)
As Brenyak cuts off pieces of his clients’ skins, he says it feels like the “outside world shuts off and I enter a state of grace. I lose myself in the craft.” If that doesn’t sound like a form of psychopathy, what does?
People have been modifying their bodies for thousands of years for a myriad of reasons, including aesthetic appeal, spiritual enlightenment, to express their individuality, to show affiliation to a group, or simply after one too many cocktails. Whereas Brenyak’s followers bolster scarification as a work of art, others will call it out for what it really is – a grotesque form of self-mutilation.