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OVER A QUARTER CENTURY OF DEDICATION TO PROTECTING, PRESERVING AND PROMOTING EROTIC ART.

DISPATCH SPRING 2004

alann de vuyst
flemish painter/traveling nomad/cultural zealot

International art that takes on the innocence of tribal sensitivity and tells us of the heartless ruggedness of urban sophistication. The artist was born in 1959 in Aalst, Belgium and trained for four years at St. Lukas art school in Brussels. He exhibits in Belgium, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and India and his work can be seen currently as part of the Tom of Finland Collection at The Erotic Museum in Hollywood.

When people look at my work from a distance they are startled and think they are seeing tribal art from Australia. They notice the dots and lines, zigzags and curves, and strange symbols found in Aboriginal pieces. When they take a second look, at a closer range, there are lots of erotic symbols and phalli and that’s why the average viewer can be shocked, disgusted or often just amused. Then follows the usual remark, “Why do you paint like that?” And in an accusatory manner they add that I have no right to use those graphics because I am not Aboriginal — as if I had stolen something or claimed something to which I am not entitled.

 
Alann De Vuyst, "On Top", 2002

On Top, 2002

Time tends to let people forget their ancestral images. We Westerners had the Visigoths, Celts and Vikings, to name a few, who used patterns similar, if not identical to the Aborigines. Our own heritage is rich — just think of the caves of the Neolithic era in Altamira, Spain or the famous Cerne Abbas Giant of Dorset in the UK. When I saw the latter, it gave me the feeling I wasn’t painting anything new but merely continuing what had always been there. It is pleasant to discover how other cultures used to worship the lingam, or phallus, as a source of fertility and divine power. We all made primitive drawings as children in which we would draw only the essential lines for fingers or legs and that’s what attracted me to tribal art: the simple but accurate lines and dots and striking colors that make it all complete.

Tribal art, of course, is not art for art’s sake — everything is connected to everyday life. Crockery is decorated to give it a life, too. All graphics have a meaning, whether painted on cloth, a vase or on a body. So for me to merely copy what is “tribal” would be foolish. In my work I try to be narrative and pass on a message be it spiritual or erotic. There is no society that does not depict its sexual life, though some have been erased by intolerant civilizations especially during the Judeo-Christian era. Such was the case for Egypt, with its stylized monoliths, where lots of polymorphic creatures were destroyed. It happened in Persepolis, Iran during the Khomeini revolution. In India, with all of its erect marble stones, the average man is shocked to see the marvel of the Kama Sutra sculptures discovered in the Khajuraho temples. Even Gandhi once said that the best thing to do would be to bury the whole Khajuraho site again to avoid the corruption of the country’s young minds.

All this bigotry and falsification has become the central drive for my work, to (re)create art that can defy Taliban censorship! My art still gets censored in Europe as well as in Asia. Of course the fact that I add some homoerotic ingredients into my work doesn’t improve the situation.

Alann de Vuyst

Alann de Vuyst

The whole thing started after my first visit to Brazil where I met autodidact painters in the northeastern states and in particular, in Cuiaba, capital of Mato Grosso. The art they made was called Arte Primitivo or arte caboclo. A caboclo is someone with Indian blood or who lives as an Indian at the fringes of the jungle. In some ways one can compare their art with the naive art that emerged in Europe with Le Douanier Rousseau. Only their art is more indigenous with a much looser style and more vividly colored. I was then painting semi-realistic works in the studio of the Federal University of Mato Grosso State.

When I returned to my native Belgium all that I had seen lingered in my mind. I wanted to get away from the harsh topics of politics and themes like AIDS which I used to paint in Europe. My stay with the Xavante Indians, who adopted me in their clan through a blood pact, gave me an extra boost to steer away from anything realistic on canvas.

When I finally visited Asia there was no more turning back. I saw primitive, naive art there, too. It was like my head started blending everything into my subconsciousness as the input of colors and graphics from India and Nepal were overwhelming. The painted scrolls (called Pothuas made by the indigenous Santhali people), the tantric paintings in Hindu temples, the Rajasthani miniatures of Maharajas mating with monkeys and young men and women, Mithala art that originated in the state of Bihar (which was painted on floors and walls by women), skeletons mating with women in shrines and Lord Shiva’s erect penis ready to fornicate with his consort Parvati. Maha Kali’s tribal black-voodoo-like power sent shivers through my spine. Seeing all this (much of which is not available to the local populations) has only confirmed that I was on the right track with my way of painting.

Alann De Vuyst, "Bondage Man", 2002

Bondage Man, 2002

1995 took me back to Brazil where I witnessed a festival called Festa do Divino, the Feast of the Holy Spirit, in the city of Perinopolis. Basically a replay of the Crusades (where the crusaders were the victors.) During a two week period masked men on horses rampage through the hilly streets of the city in authentic costumes. They wear masks representing the faces of bulls; their huge papier-mache horns decorated with paper flowers and garlands. The drunken participants play out scenes of violence such as settling a score with a foe or publicly raping a maiden or two. This debauchery inspired me to sketch the men hanging from the belly of their stallion and being sodomized by it, or an act of fellatio between mount and rider.

In Thailand in 1996 I was still following that lead and thus came to life my reptile-like creatures. The men-bulls had simply lost their horns but were still fornicating with anything they could lay their claws on. From that moment on they led their own life and I invented more creatures—demon or godlike—sometimes in a Aztec codex-like setting, sometimes in a futuristic environment or in a tantric dance.

Orgasm, ecstasy, eros and thanatos are never far away in my work.

— Alann de Vuyst

A Native American artist said, “The best way to preserve tradition is to continuously reinvent it.”


This artist's images shown on this page are currently offered through the Erotic Art Gallery.


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MONEY
“…I named what I thought was an enormous sum. Without blinking an eye, he gathered up my life work and handed me the amount I asked for: $70… I didn’t expect more. Remember that homosexuality was forbidden in most of the Western world; so all those businesses were illegal, black market. I knew that they wouldn’t have paid me more anyway — or so I believed then.”
— Tom of Finland