Lewis Kaye
We found faculty members who wear their hearts on their skin and asked them the (sometimes dreaded) question: “What does your tattoo mean?” (Photos by Alexa Battler)
Wednesday, May 15 - 2019
Alexa Battler

Lewis Kaye, lecturer in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media

Lewis Kaye's tattoos
Lewis Kaye's tattoos are all pieces of art that have resonated with him. 

Lewis Kaye tends to get his tattoos at the end of the semester — partly as a treat to himself, partly to avoid giving lectures with a scabby tattoo. 

All of Kaye’s tattoos are of modernist artworks from the early to mid 20th century, though he says they embody his field of new media studies.

“If you go back and look at what the modernists and constructivists were doing in the 1920s, they were experimenting with new forms of representation,” he says. 

“New media isn’t simply about computers or digital technology. New media is a way to approach using existing technologies.”

Kaye says he has always been attracted to the way modernist and constructivist artists work across forms and develop new techniques. 

“When I wanted a tattoo, I figured I should get the art that I like,” he says. “I’ve come to like art that makes me think.”

On his left inside forearm is Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s K VII. Moholy-Nagy was a painter, photographer and professor at Bauhaus, an influential German art school. K VII may look like a simple collection of rectangles, but the overlapping shapes and shadows result in more than 30 different coloured quadrants. 

“I appreciate the harmony of form that many of these pieces embody, the complexity when you dig down into them,” Kaye says. “There’s a simplicity that belies complexity.” 

The red squares on his inside right forearm are The Puritan, by painter, sculptor and writer Louise Bourgeois. The lines along his outside right forearm are from a piece by Tomas Maldonado, a painter, designer and theorist. 

In selecting his tattoos, Kaye says he plays a “weird curational role” by strategically deciding where they will look best on his body. 

“You take these very two-dimensional, modernist, geometrical works and you put them on a malleable, changeable, three-dimensional thing like a human body and it’s amazing how beautifully they fit.” 

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