The Erotic Art of Battaolo : An interview

How would you describe the nature of your art? “If I’m asked to describe my pictures, the easy answer is erotic art. However, I don’t always find it particularly erotic. That may be because I’m too close to it, but I think that it’s more that it’s “about sex” than “of sex”. There is often, a social, political or topical element to my pictures. What may seem to be the star subject, is often just the supporting actor. I like to bury the real theme a little to force the viewer to dig a little deeper. Some people see it straight away, some need prompting, some never get it and some don’t want to.”

What is the biggest inspiration or motivation for your work? Where do your ideas come from?
If you google for “erotic illustration”, you still get a lot of airbrushy “bints with boobs”. Sleek, pneumatic, “beautifully drawn” like 70s playboy magazines. Personally, I find most of this highly un-erotic, intensely uninteresting and positively tedious. For me, this kind of coyness, this “nudge, nudge, whoar look at that!” thing is incredibly repressed and lacking in any real sexiness. It doesn’t give me a stiffy!
One of my favorite recent movies is Shortbus. AT LAST- a movie about sex that actually has sex in it. For years, I’ve been boring anyone who’d listen with my hope/dream/prophecy that we’d see one day Nicole Kidman giving Tom Cruise (or some other high profile actors) a blow-job on-screen and he’d come over her face – for real. That may sound rather crude and exaggerated but sex is as much part of life as any other aspect and it makes no sense to pretend it doesn’t. Are we STILL to believe that our heroes are gentlemen and wouldn’t behave in that manner and our heroines are sweet and innocent and have to be seduced into “acts of depravity”? This way of thinking really does wind me up.
Anyway, in terms of subject matter, I find a lot of inspiration in online communities, especially Flickr. This has become slightly harder recently as I’ve noticed a lot more “professional” picture-streams are starting to appear. Because I’m only interested in real people, this is a slight irritation. One of the things that interests me is the notion of privacy. I’ve started to think more about sexual privacy and one of the most obvious conclusions is that (some) people are (a lot) more worried about their financial (and other) privacy than their sexual privacy. Spaces like Flickr seem to be platforms for sexual self-expression and exhibitionism. The kinds of details given, about preferences, availability, and location indicate that a lot of people are a lot less worried about what their neighbors might think than we might imagine. It’s this openness that endears me to the Flickr sexual community and encourages me to dig deeper and see what more inspiration it has to offer.
I find I’m constantly changing and evolving what I do. I sometimes “revisit” old ideas but usually end up “revising” them. Many times there is something in a previous work that seeds the new work. Often it’s something I want to explore which didn’t fit in the old work, either in terms of technique or stylistically. When I was working on the Sushi Girls, I wanted to make them edgier, tougher, and less cutesy. To some extent it worked with the latest ones. Still, it wasn’t tough enough and I started looking through the adobe clip-art. I started seeing something of the, much extolled, repressed Japanese sexuality in them and I was off on a roll. I worked flat out for two weeks every morning before work and whenever I could. Out that set, I deleted maybe two or three that didn’t work. The nature of clip-art as a re-usable resource helped a lot and a few elements occur in several pieces.
Technique wise, I’ve been taking an impressionistic approach lately. Much less about detail, more about broad brush (mouse) strokes and working fast. This helps to combat artistic dyslexia and means I can finish one picture before I start thinking too much about the next one.
Your work deals with many non-traditional or edgier aspects of sexuality. How much of your own erotic fantasies or desires are reflected in your work?
I find it better to describe it, is as the fantasies of the subject of the work. My own fantasies are probably much less interesting than theirs. Of course, there is an element of myself in my work. That is inevitable.
I was an “early and enthusiastic starter” and as someone, full of hormones, with few inhibitions, eager to try new things and unable to say no, I did experience many things which are still quite taboo to a great many people, even today. I think that gave me a very “level” view of sex and life in general.
My experiences as a child and youth pop up now and then. When these things come up in my pictures, it can be a little “uncomfortable” for some viewers, especially in the current climate of paedophilic hysteria. But, that’s their problem not mine and I’m not ready self-sensor my work just yet.
Is it easy to find places to display your art?
Well, in fact, I just received an email telling me that my work has been rejected from a prestigious venue in Barcelona. Initially the woman in charge of bookings said she loved it and offered me a solo exhibition. She also said I could participate in a joint show on the theme of “women in art” showing the work of various artists (some of whom I know also produce controversial work). But I guess my work was a little “too near the knuckle” for them. Seriously, it’s always going to be more difficult simply because of the subject matter and, especially if the work falls outside of what usually passes for erotic art.
However, in the next few months, there’ll be a new gallery in Barcelona, specializing in erotic art. They have asked me to be part of their opening, along with several well known names in erotic art in Europe. I feel proud to be in such illustrious company and it gives me a lot of encouragement.
What artists, art periods, are an inspiration for your own work? And in what way?
In artistic terms, there is an obvious shunga influence. Also, I’ve been an admirer of George Grosz, Tom of Finland and Hanz Bellmer since my early teens so they play some part in my work. One of the first things my (now) wife said about my work was that she saw something of Balthus in my pictures. At that time I’d barely even heard of him. And even now, I still don’t see it. One of my greatest recent discoveries was the work of Clovis Trouille. Last year (2007) I found a booklet on a market stall about him and his work, and I managed to track down a copy of (as far as I could find) the only book about him (in French). I see a lot of parallels with the way I’ve been working (especially with the inclusion of current events and social, moral and political commentary).
Can you provide a link to a website that you consider a must, a great place to visit?
I love Gloria Brame’s blog because of her enthusiasm and diligence. There’s always something you haven’t seen before. The only down-side is there is SO much stuff and it’s all on one page so it takes forever to load. Gloria Brame’s blog I love the photography and attitude of Clayton James Cubitt on (Daily Siege). Unfortunately, you have to be a subscriber to see it. It’s the only reason I am, to be honest.
Interview by Kayla

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