The body as a canvas

Body art is an unconventional pictorial art in the history of art of the western continent; a form of expression not only artistic, but cultural. Basically it is about using, as the name implies, the body as a canvas on which to paint. This aesthetic tendency means the release of the body for some people.

This technique is not new to man, because dyes and paints were used to decorate the body in prehistory. Most tribal cultures practiced (and still practice) this art. In African tribes was used as a symbolic and/or decorative element for different events and activities, such as hunting, a funeral rite or worship a higher being. Of course, the materials they used were crude, as chalk, clay, ash, animal blood, and so on. It was also used as camouflage.


Other cultures have used body painting; the great Egyptian empire practiced it for different motives, and also the Eastern culture. In the lattest, especially in the area of India, the hand-painting is an ancient and common practice today, which consists of decorating hands with henna (temporary red natural dye made ​​from plants). It’s commonly used in Indian culture as symbolic decoration in wedding ceremonies.

Once clear background left, it should be explain that this practice reappeared in the West and began to spread towards the end of the second half of the twentieth century. The difference it had with the body painting of ancestors or other cultures is that it’s no longer a ceremonial act, it becomes a more aesthetic and artistic trends. The body art is a technique that requires a lot of skill to represent the appropriate stage in the body of the model. The subject varies a lot from landscapes -camouflage-, through pictures, even clothing; creating very believable optical effects.

The body art has become more popular in advertising from XXI century as has also been used in other fields such as tv shows, dramatic arts, costumes, dances… And the way of painting also varies, from brushes to airbrush.

Thus, various brands have used this type of art starring in their campaigns. One of these brands is Nokia, which launched an awareness campaign about car accidents with pedestrians. The ad say “Eyes on the road, not on your phone”. The body art that is used here has a clear role of camouflage.


Other campaigns, such as the investment firm Schroders or the telecommunications at&t, use body painting in order to simulate a different reality, whether an animal or a stage.



– Artículo escrito por Carolina Moya


http://edant.larazon.com; El “body painting” y el cuerpo como expresión artística y cultural, 2007

http://www.cuerpospintados.com; Orígenes, 2008