Antonio Biella is an Italian artist who lives and works near Brescia in Northern Italy.
I want to show his work for two reasons. First of all it shows a side of eroticism that many will have heard and know of but only few find themselves actually physically engaged in.
To be honest I very often end up feeling nauseous or upset when I look at art that deals with S&M which is short for Sadomasochism. So secondly, I want to show Biellas work because his pictures leave me with a different sensibility from what I normally experience. They stand out from other works of art that deal with S&M due to the effects Biella use.
Biellas´ pictorial language is a mix of cartoon style, classical landscapes and posh chateau-like interiors and his early interest in comics and later work as an illustrator clearly marks his work.
It is partly Biellas play on the real versus the made-up that makes his work interesting. We know that S&M is a sexual game that plays out in reality for a number of people, but it is also a made-up roleplay that can be stopped by a “safe word”.
The tension between the real and the story comes across strongly as Biella depicts humans in a cartoon style and when he places well-known cartoon characters such as Donald and Daisy Duck in the same settings as his humans.
Biellas use of Donald and Daisy in eroticized situations does unsettle me though. It is of course unsettling because I know these characters so well from my childhood Saturday afternoons when I sat down to watch Disney cartoons. They represent something I adored and loved as a child and something totally non-erotic. So in my world Biella brings on a tension between the childlike versus the adult playing with the notion that all may not be what it seems.
This adult –child theme also plays out in other of his works like fetish 3 disegno 8, with the “little girl” on the swing.
Another aspect that makes Biellas work interesting is how the perception of Sadomasochism as a game of inflicting or receiving pain or humiliation is juxtaposed with vulnerability and fragility.
Just take a look at ´Fetish 2 Disegno 7´ below. It is not often that a subject in a game of S&M is depicted in deep contemplation, as he appears to be here.
The same could be said for ´Fetish 1 Disegno 7´ where you see the mistress reposing on a couch looking lost in thought. The frame that Biella has created provides the observer with a feeling of sneaking a peak at a scene rarely seen. The woman is not aware of being seen and therefore takes a moment to herself before springing back into action in the role as a mistress.
Finally I think that Biellas `Fetish 1 Disegno 7´ illustrates beautifully how sadomasochism is not only about the hard feelings relating to sadism pain and humiliation.
The rose that decorates the side of the girl´s headmask is a potent symbol of delicate beauty as well as a long standing symbol of the female sex. S&M black leather and lacquer outfits do not usually have flowery designs on them so the fact that Biella has chosen to embellish her mask with a rose design makes the image interesting. On top of that Biella has decorated the border with a flowery Art Nouveau style pattern unifing the masculine and feminine – just look closely at the “heads” in the pattern.
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