Tattooing: The Romantic Era

Art history is a beautiful and big subject to talk about. All the different ways of expression, artists and developments the arts go trough; it’s a reflection on the daily life of a particular time. New media like film and photography made their way up the art historical story and are now ‘known members of the club’. One visual and probably most ‘human’ form of art has yet to be acknowledged by the art world. Me first: Tattoos!

Tattoos are, as now many people think, a very personal form of art. It doesn’t hang in a museum, it’s a part of someone’s life. As the owner of 6 tattoos I can say that the pictures on my body are a part of my life and me. It is a microform of art: reflection of the daily life of one person. Like sculptures and paintings, tattoos have been around for while. It goes back about 5000 years, mostly developing in old tribes and Japan. The popularity of tattooing in the west and modern world, I think, with the Sailor Jerry designs. The big pirate ships, naked pin up models in black and grey with accents of red: it doesn’t get more classic then that. From this point the tattooing world has experienced some trends with the ultimate down low: the ‘90s tribal.

Tattoo artists of the new age are not just hiding behind a tattoo machine or a big portfolio. They consider their work ‘art’ and want to show it off like painters have been doing for years. It’s less about the customer’s wish (The Tasmanian devil is kind of old fashion maybe?) and more about the artwork and freedom of the artist. Having the honor to get that work on your body. It’s a very romantic and subjective idea to trust an artist with your body and be a canvas. But another romantic trend in the tattooing world is the concept of the tattoo, which comes with the artist element of tattoo artists. A lot of tattoos from the past are mostly from a very standard design, a stencil that has been printed out many times. Examples are the butterfly, all the Sailor Jerry designs (although these are classic), the tribal form and many others. Maybe they have been done in a slightly different way; the subject is often the same.

An example for this new generation of tattoo artists is Peter Aurisch. Working in Berlin, the Internet fills up with the most amazing unique and fascinating tattoos. One thing that he does, and some other tattoo artists like Xoïl, is using color in a very watercolory way. It’s not about keeping the color between the lines but making it slightly less ‘’perfect’’. This gives the tattoo something romantic in a way it is almost drawn on you, like it’s always been a part of you. Another technique that’s very interesting, but also done by other artists, is the abstract lining in the tattoos. It doesn’t look clean and crisp, but it looks that much more interesting. And: all the lines matter.

The most romantic element of the new generation of tattooing is, I think, the special band between artist and customer. Because of the uniqueness of the tattoo and the work that has put in to it, the artist and canvas create a special band. It is a piece of his art in your body and there is nothing like it on the planet. We all should be a canvas for these great new artists and maybe make an art history for ourselves.

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