The drawings of Apollonia Saintclair appeared from nowhere on the Web in 2012. A self-taught illustrator with tortuous past, Apollonia draws for her pleasure and that of her audience. She also works for publishing houses, among other La Musardine. Her imagination is fueled by Pop culture as well as academic canons and her graphic influences range from Leonardo da Vinci to Moebius and Milo Manara – among many other European comics artist. She also finds a great inspiration in The Silver Spoon. A longtime resident of the Old Continent, Apollonia divides her time between the kitchen and her workshop
What are you looking at?
“We are all made of mud, yet we all have moments when we transcend the everyday.” Apollonia Saintclair, Nakid Magazine 2016
Who is the mysterious Apollonia Saintclair? From which universe was she sent to us, Bowie-esque in her monumental intelligence, her unparalleled skill and vivid, explosive imagination?” I see her falling from the outer universe, through shooting stars and alien tentacles, the atoms and planets bursting and the endless particles of the universe embracing and carrying her to land on our soft earth. To see deep into our selves and reveal to us through ink and blood who it is that we truly are. I imagine that through her eyes, we would see ourselves made of black and white lines, living our most hidden fantasies out in the public for all to see, free from the shackles of shame or guilt, liberated and eroticized
It is Apollonia’s eyes that hold the key to the popularity of her work. It is her gaze.
When Apollonia asked me to write an introduction to her new book, it was an obvious fit. Although the (not safe for) work I do as an adult cinema director may seem different to that of Apollonia’s wildly fantastic and unique skills in illustration, what connects us is our gaze. Two women, experiencing, dissecting and creatively exploring sexuality and eroticism.
“Protagonism is propaganda that protects and perpetuates privilege” Jill Soloway, TIFF 2016
Soloway summed up the role of the male and female gaze more succinctly than I ever could in those words. She summizes that the female gaze is a completely different concept to that of the male gaze – and in more complex and unique ways than it simply being a “woman’s point of view”.
The “male gaze” was a term coined by Laura Mulvey in her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” in 1973, who took the psychoanalyst Jaques Lacan’s theory on the internal and external self-image, gaze and subject/objectivity and explored it within cinema. And the fiercely wise Apollonia takes on this mantle in her own work: “Images are simultaneously the product of reflection of what one is and what one sees.”
When Mulvey spoke about the male gaze in cinema, what resonated most for me in terms of adult cinema was that the assumed audience in both genres is male. Therefore the protagonists appeal to men (or are meant to represent them) – and the women are objectified as things to be observed, rather than to empathise, relate and connect to on an emotional level. Essentially, cinema always asks you to put yourself in the shoes of the man, and in the knickers of the woman.
This is where having a woman behind the camera, or holding the pen, becomes vital in making feminist and sex-positive erotica. T way I see through the lens, the way I view as a woman what I am directing, is different. I observe different moments – facial expressions of the men, the bead of sweat running down a temple, the small shake in the toes of a woman. The way Apollonia explores sex taps into the deepest eroticism within humankind – her understanding of our sexuality is unlike anything else I’ve seen in art. Our Western culture, from classical art to porn itself, is one of the biggest perpetrators of this repressive and sexist culture of sexuality we are forced to try and break out from. The patriarchy is sexuality’s arch nemesis – and its heroines are women like Apollonia. Reminding us that the most weird and wonderful corners of our imaginations are often the darkest, the sexiest, and the most mysterious.
What makes Apollonia’s work so popular? Aside from the mind-blowing intricacy and detail in her work, the sheer skill with which she creates her art in cinematic, post-noir, stunningly imaginative ways, is that she captures the essence of what sexuality means for each of us. Whether it’s a naked woman riding a rocket ship into outer space; or being dragged into the depths of hell by multiple hands; engaging in BDSM or octopus fetishism; the exquisite worlds she invites us into in each piece are as varied as each of our own inner desires and fantasies. They are meant for everyone – and their lack of bias, or objectivity draws us as the viewers into scenes we never could have imagined as erotic or arousing – but that most certainly are. She deliberately creates work “about the ambiguous situations where, finally, the interpretation depends mostly on the viewer.” Rather than forcing her narrative down our throats, in the violent way in which pornography can insist that we experience our personal sexuality, she opens the door for us to discover.
The idea that all women are interested in are roses and romance ties right into the Madonna/whore cliché that only allows us to either be sluts or mothers. Apollonia’s work reminds the world that women are far more complex beings than that – and that given the opportunity to express how we experience sex, how we fantasise about it and indeed how we view it, we just might surprise you.
Myself and Apollonia share one other thing in common – our work, deliberately or not, is becoming intrinsic within modern sexual discourse. Which is why we have decided to collaborate on a film together – bringing the two worlds of adult cinema and erotic art together, hopefully to create something that opens the eyes, minds and legs of our viewers in ways they haven’t conceived of before. We will send shivers up your spines, and goose bumps along your arms. We will stimulate your minds and your senses… and we will continue to use sexuality and eroticism as tools for sexual liberation, to deconstruct repression and misogyny in society, as well as arousing you on a physical and spiritual level.
But for now, prepare to dive deep into the fascinating, spellbinding and arousing worlds of Apollonia Saintclair. It’s unlike anything you’ve seen before, or will again.