Lee Wagstaff


My name is Lee Wagstaff I was born in 1969 in London, I am an English artist who spent five years acquiring a full body suit of tattoos* with designs based on cross-cultural geometrical symbols (circles, squares, swastikas, stars, etc) drawing on religious influences from my Catholic/Baptist upbringing and my Indian heritage.

I studied at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art in London and Kyoto City University of Arts, Kyoto, Japan. I have exhibited my body and large format photographic self-portraits at fine art and performance art venues worldwide. My performance was featured in the Ornament Und Abstraction show at the Beyeler Foundation, Basel, Switzerland and I was the first Western artist to be featured in the Art Annual, Kobe, Japan.

In 2007 I co-founded the artists project space RISE berlin and acted as its director and curator until 2013.

My Shroud, a self-portrait screen printed in my own blood, was included in the Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition Impressions of the Century — 100 Years of the Fine Art Print.

“The emergence of Lee’s image on the Shroud elevates him to the status of a surrogate divine seemingly without the intervention of God. It comes off as both disquietingly heroic and at the same time spiritually arrogant” - David Bowie.

* tattooed by Barry Hogarth


I create mostly performative (self) portraits. When I make art I think about how images and objects can explore and convey an alliance between faith, space, geometry and anatomy. I have studied printmaking and sculpture since 1987 and use complimentary processes (photography, drawing, tattooing, yoga and live art). For the last few years digital 3d scanning and object reconstruction technologies have played an important part in my creative studies.

I use my own body as an arena for investigation, experimentation and exhibition, as a means of supplication and contemplation as part of my own Christian journey. Through repetitive technical processes and abductive reasoning I seek a deeper understanding of my faith and scripture. My academic research compliments my physical practice by exploring the aesthetic and theological dimensions of digitally enabled artefacts.



Solo Exhibitions

Group Exhibitions

Awards, Fellowships and Residencies

  • Frans Masereel Print Centre - Research Residency (June 2013)
  • Royal College of Art Printmaking Research Fellow (2000-2001)
  • Waterstone - RCA Award (2000)
  • Kyoto City University of Art - Travel Award (1999)


  • Victoria & Albert Museum
  • David Bowie Collection
  • RCA print archive
  • Various private collections in Turkey, Japan, India, USA and throughout Europe

Commissions / Collaborations

  • ‘Flesh and God’ A Dialogue Between Contemporary Artists and The Catholic Church of France (2003)
  • Karlheinz Weinberger- new publication (2003)
  • BowieArt Print Project (2001)
  • Mercedes Benz/Esquire C-Class Commission (2000)

Lecturing / Teaching

  • University of East London
  • Royal Academy of Arts School
  • The Royal College of Art
  • Alberta College of Art & Design
  • Surrey Institute of Art & Design
  • The Minories Colchester
  • Kobe Art Village
  • The Victoria & Albert Museum


  • Skull Sourcebook, A. Nozedar (2015) Publisher: Race Point (ISBN-978-1631061585)
  • Forever: The New Tattoo, R. Klanten (2012) Publisher: Gestalten (ISBN-10: 3899554426)
  • Lingering Whispers, Predrag Pajdic (2010), Publisher: The Pandorian (ISBN: 978-0-9553309-1-9)
  • 100,000 Years of Beauty, Elizabeth Azouley (2009), Publisher: Gallimard (ISBN-10: 207012844X)
  • Prints Now: Direction and Definition, Gill Saunders & Rosie Miles (2006), Publisher: Victoria & Albert Museum (ISBN-13: 978-1851774807)
  • L'autoportrait au XXe siècle: Moi Je, par soi-même (2004), Pascal Bonafoux Editeur: Diane De Selliers (ISBN: 2903656290)
  • Hidden Histories, Michael Petry (2004) Publisher: Art Media (ISBN: 190288910X)
  • A Guide to Ecstacity, Nigel Coates (2003) Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press (ISBN-10: 1568984243)
  • L‘ Eglise ET l’art d’avant-garde, De la provocation au dialogue (2003), by Monsignor Albert Rouet/Gilbert Brownstone (ISBN: 2 226 1135529)
  • ARS Erotica (2003 re-print), by Edward Lucie Smith (ISBN: 084720602)
  • The Fourth Sex: Adolescent Extremes (2003), Ed. Francesco Bonami/Raf Simmons
    (ISBN: 8881 584042
  • Art Tomorrow (2002), by Edward Lucie Smith (ISBN: 0847820602)
  • Ornament and Abstraction: the Dialogue Between non-Western, Modern & Contemporary Art (2001), Ed. Marcus Bruderlin (ISBN: 0300092261)
  • Impressions of the 20th Century, Fine Art Prints form the Victoria & Albert Museum Collection (2001), Ed. Margaret Timmers (ISBN: 1851773398)
  • Typical Men-The Male Body in Photographs by Men (2001), by Michael Watson
  • Ambit 162 (2000), Ed. Martin Bax/Eduardo Paolozzi (ISSN: 0002-6772)