Tuesday, 31 July 2012
A-Z of Fetish Artists - Rőhm
When writing these articles, there are some subjects which I approach with considerable trepidation, including Nazi themes and scat. Unfortunately Rőhm depicts both of these and the result it not always very pretty.
My first image gives an idea of his style. Photo images simulating electro-torture are almost run of the mill erotica these days (I'm thinking Bound Gods again) but it is remarkable how the use of 1940's style greatcoats and spectacles in this picture damps down the sense of eroticism, desexualising the torturer and invoking sinister associations that for most people won't seem very sexy either. The victim too is characterised in an unsympathetic, rather grotesque way, even his fleshy body suggests degeneracy and it all adds up to the sense of not very nice sadism.
Tom of Finland also produced a picture of a muscular man being whipped by a Gestapo officer. He gives the victim a more attractive, manly treatment but the historical associations are so potent that it's still hard to accept as erotic fantasy. Rőhm goes further than this in other pictures and shows scenes set in concentration camps which, for me, are very hard to swallow.
In the second picture the setting moves to tropical climes and a more basic form of torment. You will observe that Rőhm does not draw pretty men - either as captor or victim. I suppose the ageing, overweight torturers are fair enough as a device to suggest humiliation but when the victims are scrawny and dishevelled like this, their masculinity is diminished and although both depictions are scarily realistic, they are erotically quite neutral.
In fetish artwork, depictions of quite extreme torture are often 'legitimised' by using the 'hero effect'. That is to say, the victim is very handsome and muscular and although this somehow makes him deserving of being tormented, he cannot really be harmed and will eventually escape or be rescued. It's clear that the authors of these works do actually love their men and this defuses the nastiness.
Even in more extreme 'snuff' artwork, like the executions of Bondageskin (above), the sensuous depictions of the victims' bodies and their ability to sexually enjoy their own demise reveals a similar regard but in Rőhm's work this element seems to be absent, the erotic intent is confined to the situation itself, but I suppose you can say the same about spanking images showing only a bruised and welted backside.
Despite my dislike of his subject matter, I do get the point of Rőhm's work and I admire his style which is similar to comic-book techniques. His website erohm.com still exists, the gallery is closed but the home page gives glimpses of his work.
For other articles in this series click on the A-Z label below or use the search box to find a specific artist