"Blackwork is a tattoo choice," tattoo artist Hanumantra Lamar, unofficial prophet of the blackwork tattoo, writes on his website. "It’s a lifestyle and it’s a philosophy; believing that less really is more and understanding that we should not be afraid to stand out in a world full of people trying to fit in."
A blackwork tattoo, quite simply, is an abstract geometric shape painted in pure black upon the body. It can live on an arm or a chest or a leg, either on its own or as part of a larger geometric pattern. But basically -- it's big and black as midnight on a moonless night. It's not for people scared of needles.
As you can likely tell, Lamar is pretty serious about his work. As are his clients. If you've ever felt the searing pain of a tattoo needle forging even the most simple line work, you're probably shuddering at the thought of getting your entire arm painted pure black, one little fiber of skin at a time.
Lamar currently works at UK-based studio Modern Body Art, where he's thrilled to toil for hours on end on the bodies of bold individuals who are not afraid to stand out. (And also expose themselves to extended periods of brutal physical pain.) As is the case with many tattoos, the abstract black shapes forever imprinted on the human form tend to elicit a specific reaction from others:
"What does it mean?"
According to Chester Lee, a tattoo artist at Oracle Tattoo in Singapore, the tattoos are "inspired by neo-tribal tattoos, which evolved from ancient sacred tribal markings." These tattoos, he told Buzzfeed, borrow from the past to create new, trendier styles (which is not always looked upon kindly). Others have pointed out that the blackout tattoos are often chosen as a way of covering up displeasing past work.
Lamar explained his answer to the question in a lengthy Instagram caption: "It’s a question I’m often confronted with when people see my work for the first time. It’s how we try and understand the world we live in, we question the things that challenge us. The simple answer is there isn’t a simple one size fits all answer. Each tattoo I create represents something different to the person who wears it and that is their story to share."
But also, he stresses, perseverance. Because this s**t hurts. And how could it not? It's the blackest black. Even Anish Kapoor better recognize.