In•eff•a•ble /ɪnˈɛfəbəl/ — too extreme to be expressed in words; that which must not be uttered
Apollonia Saintclair is an artist whose sensual illustrations have gained her an enthusiastic following on Tumblr. In addition to beautifully-detailed and highly-charged images of intimate acts, Apollonia's work delves into Lynchian-type absurdity and the grotesque: bizarrely erotic settings, spiders, and tentacles trickle throughout her work, mixing sex with tantalizing elements of darkness and horror. Favouring the unconventional, Apollonia views sex and desire as unpredictable alchemical processes, thereby giving representation to our most varied and visceral fantasies.
ineffable had the exciting opportunity to speak with Apollonia and explore her sources of inspiration and the "unspeakably" beautiful and provocative facets of her work. Read the full interview below:
1. Where are you currently based?
I live in Europe.
2. How did you start creating your beautiful illustrations, and what mediums do you use?
I have, more or less diligently, always drawn on notebooks corners, but my ambition, if I had one, was rather writing. In 2012, motivated by the pure pleasure of doing, I started to understand drawing as a much larger project than I had before, as a territory that had to be explored in depth, and not as a simple Sunday field trip. I think I realized suddenly that I had the power to compress an entire story in a single moment fixed on the paper. Everything you can see on the net is a kind of logbook of the first hesitant beginning to the last lines of the drawings that are beginning to have a certain density.
I used to draw with Indian ink at the beginning, but now I work mainly digital because "dry" ink is so convenient. I can work anywhere, anytime, and in any position. I often work a complete drawing just lying lazily on my bed. Plus, once the drawing is ready, it takes only a few steps to post it on the internet. But I also have a project to make very big drawings, let's say 2 x 3 meter, using an “analogue” technique. In fact, I'm just at the beginning from what I want and will do.
3. What do you mean by “Ink is my blood” as the subtitle to your Tumblr page?
The ink is what makes me alive, giving me a life. If I hadn't begun to draw these images that inhabit my mind, I would be just another anonymous ghost.
4. Your erotic art delves into areas that some may identify as "alternative" — tentacles, fetish, orgies, BDSM, etc. How do you view desire, and what do you think makes an “unconventional” image beautiful and/or arousing?
Ironically, the images that have been, to my knowledge, the most liked are those that show scenes of rather conventional desire. When I think of a picture, there are always two aspects that combine to form it. First it is the idea of a story, possibly with a twist, that will form in the mind of the viewer and then there is to be a powerful visual idea. I think that the beauty of an image is independent of whether it will have the "alternative" elements or not. What is “alternative” anymore, by the way? But in the end what really matters is that the feelings and thoughts it awakes in the viewer’s mind find an echo in the ordering of visual elements that compose it. It's hard to explain, but for me a picture really is perfect when it is in a state of checkmate: when it becomes a kind of visual orgasm that makes my insides shudder and where I cannot remove or add anything.
5. Several of your images even explore horror and the grotesque, involving gore, absurdity, and death. What do you view as the connection between eroticism and such dark themes?
Sexuality is a matter of life or death. Biologically speaking it's obvious, but psychologically it is the one time when we are really vulnerable, when the masks fall. It is not surprising that we project all our hopes and our fears in there. You never know in advance if your lover is an Adonis or a Jason. Even more, you never know if what turns on your lover is thinking that he is Adonis or Jason... Because human sexuality is mostly a mental thing, all fantasies are possible and all distortions are imaginable. I am convinced that, to a more or less intense degree, we all have a fetish that triggers our desire. Some fetishes are just darker than others. Another reason is that sexuality remains a playground for transgression, probably because its conscious discovery coincides with puberty, which is by definition when we try to go beyond the boundaries that we have been taught. It is that moment where we are constantly torn between the lure of novelty and the fear of danger, where one seeks the company of these monsters that scare our parents while hoping they won’t devour us.
6. Does your own erotic energy play a role in the conception of your images, or do you find you create mostly to appeal to the fancies and desires of others?
This is the core of alchemy, isn’t it? I do not know for sure, to be honest. What I know is that I try to tell stories I would like to hear, stories that I think would move me inside. In "Le passage (Let me take you to the other side)" for example, I wanted to draw a woman hugging a personage hidden behind something, like a tree or a wall, someone who seems to drag her into the shadows. I liked, as often, the ambiguity of the situation: I was wondering if it was just a romantic encounter in a back alley, or something darker? While seeking for a reference picture for the female model, I realized that the body position reminded me of the Egyptian perspective, with the front torso and profile members, and suddenly the scene was clear. I needed a temple wall as a screen, with Anubis on it as counterpart to the girl, and my story would wonderfully hover between tourism and divinity, between trivial desire and mythical ritual, between life and death.
7. What are your perspectives on pornography, and how do you feel your art is similar and/or different from it?
I would say that both are in the business of desire but with very different means, scopes, and depth. The biggest difference certainly is the depth. Unlike pornography that works most often superficially — mainly by showing as much as possible — what interests me is not what I show but what I leave to the imagination of the viewer. What interests me is the multidimensionality of a picture, which of course talks about sex but also simultaneously about life, the world, history, etc... So if someone gets off on looking at my pictures, very well. But for me eroticism is not an end in itself — it is a code to penetrate deeper into the secrets of the world we live in.
8. You are a very prolific artist with a burgeoning social media presence. What do you foresee or hope for in the future of your art?
I do not have a crystal ball and I prefer it that way. When I started posting pictures on Tumblr, I had no expectation and I certainly did not foresee to receive so much attention. Of course, this relative success gives some appetite for more, but every time I start to make plans, I end by saying that I started this whole thing to make me happy while taking very seriously what I wanted to reach on the artistic level. If I have one wish, it is to be able to confirm over time that my passion was not a passing phenomenon. If what I do continues to interest people, new opportunities shall appear. But what interests me most right now is to continue to improve, so that drawing for me becomes as natural as breathing.
▲ Banner image is "La jubilation (Fucking good!)"
Images © Apollonia Saintclair, reproduced with permission.