Date(s) - 4th Dec 2021 - 10th Feb 2022
There is a shift taking place in how we perceive our interpersonal relationships and how feelings of affection, love and power factor into them. It’s been over 50 years since the “Summer of Love” where authoritarianism was challenged and culminated in an anti-establishment festival. This popularised the values of “free love” which went on to define the hippie generation. Since then many have been able to openly question their interpersonal values and how they’re able to realise them under societal pressures. But even though it’s been such a long time from this collective realisation, we’re still painfully beholden to public perception. With the advent of social media, instead of liberating us, it’s involvement in our lives has had a major effect on us. It has become a type of social-image PR where participants show their “best side” and has gone on to reinforce the values we sought to escape during the 60s. People cannot express their own subversiveness when a potential employer, extended family or government official could be observing. And when we express this subversiveness under the guise of anonymity, we lose our individual identities. In participating in this collective adherence, the status quo is unconsciously reinforced.
My work is structured around the fantasy that men are able to enjoy each other sexually without stigma, shame or suffering under the trappings of society. The freedom they feel within themselves is reflected in the world around them. They may be perceived to be physically flawed but are unashamed in their arousal and have ultra-expressive faces that accentuate their feelings.
The scenes themselves often feature thickly proportioned men in working class professions or activities. The eroticism I seek to communicate is rooted in the character & expression of the participants. Several works feature common vernacular to accentuate their identity. I want the personality to be apparent and relatable to the viewer, rather than a detached case study. The body type and particular aesthetic come secondary to this main idea. While I am representing a fantasy in these works, much of the eroticism comes from the accessibility of the viewer being able to see themselves in the work. They’re not rendered in a superhero idealization with rippling muscles. These works are often part of a series of images where characters become increasingly aroused as the scene develops.
I’m writing this Artist Statement from New Zealand. While we’re a country that’s been very progressive in terms of LGBTQIA+ recognition, we have a limited scope of what’s expressed in terms of eroticism & sexuality. While masturbation is now being popularly recognised as a social good, erotic art & pornography is still mostly vilified. Many articles have been published over the years about porn addiction. The problematic issues surrounding high-production studio pornography is presented as being endemic with the medium itself. These articles themselves are often surrounded by adverts using women’s bodies in a languid rake-thin idealism so pervasive in modern culture. It often feels like eroticism is only permissible when it is sold back to us in a soft-core characterless product-placement form. Our individual sexuality is only palatable when using a partner as a vessel or staring into nothingness with our own self satisfaction.
My hope is that from observing my work, people free themselves from the body-shame, sex-negative polyphony our world continues to mire us in. I hope they see that these bodies are attractive in harmony with their perceived “flaws” rather than in spite of them.
-Mr Gruts, 2021
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Published: 4th December 2021