Author: Charlotte Bearn

Inked Up: Peter Blake’s Tattooed People

Discover an art form within an artwork, as the prolific British artist takes another look at the intricacies of decorative tattoos, and the vivid characters of those who have them.

Inked Up: Peter Blake’s Tattooed People | Image

Most of us think that the popularity and acceptance of tattoos is a relatively recent phenomenon, and that prior to the contemporary surge in inked skin, only sailors, bikers and criminals underwent the needle. But that assumption is very wrong. If you saw last year’s exhibition Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed at the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall, you’ll have a better idea about the practice and origins of tattooing, including the fact that in some form, it reaches back as far as the Neolithic period.

In different cultures, tattooing has different meanings and motives – from the spiritual to the decorative, and it has even been used as a form of punishment (Ancient Rome and Greece, we’re looking at you). It’s pretty fascinating to delve into, especially if you travel right up to the present day, where artists like Sir Peter Blake are drawing on tattoo culture within their artwork, and tattoo artists are, in turn, taking inspiration from the work of other visual artists (we’ve discussed Audrey Kawasaki’s impact on the Californian ink studios before).

But back to Sir Peter Blake and his ink-based story. Long associated with portraiture, Blake started creating his Tattooed People series around 2015. The originals are small watercolours on paper, which depict a number of figures, of all genders, races, shapes and sizes, but the focus is on the intricate details that mark/ decorate their skin.

Inked Up: Peter Blake’s Tattooed People | Image

Blake has recently added some new figures to the series, releasing a limited run of 75 prints of his ‘Tattooed Ladies’, some of which our artrepublic curators have secured for you. The print depicts two women – one black, one white – standing side-by-side and directly facing the viewer. They are clothed only by the inked images that adorn their skin; there’s all manner of cultural references here, from native American Indians to cowboys and pin-ups, cartoon characters to Chinese-influenced dragons. Considering the size of the originals, the detail is spectacular. There’s so much to take in that it’s hard to pull your gaze away.

But tear yourself away you must, if you want to bring one of these prints home.

Fans of the playful Tattooed People series will need to act fast to secure this print, as the signed giclee editions are in short supply. 

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