Sunday, 21 June 2015
Ulf Retrospective - The Year 2002
After the powerful scenes of the preceding years there's rather less agitation and menace in most of Ulf's 2002 output. This golden shower scene is still intense but it's almost introspective compared with the pissing bullies from 2000. Here in the privacy of his cubicle, a young man exults in the hosing of his torso by four anonymous men. However, they cannot even see what is happening, let alone enjoy his abasement. Instead it is they who are being used.
This prison scene also shows a private pleasure snatched in a forbidden place. The bars of the convicts cell even keep us at a respectful distance. They modestly obscure the most explicit details focusing our attention instead on the clumsy physicality of the two men's coupling. Usually jail scenes of this kind (by Etienne and Tom of Finland for example) depict the exploitation of new arrivals by the old lags but it's not obvious that is what Ulf has in mind here. Rather perhaps an mutual release and temporary escape from the boredom of incarceration, with no more mental connection between them than the participants in the picture above.
In the remainder of my selections from this year, Ulf discards his fiery logo for more a classical style and the images themselves become softer and more centred on the erotic, epitomised by this striking 'predicament' bondage image whose symmetry reminds us of Ulf's thoughtful approach to his art. His rendering of shackles, particularly those clasped around the captives ankles has moved on considerably from the 2000 'Loops' image.
In 'Contrite' (which has the same 'Greek' style logo) Ulf goes further into classical territory discarding mammoth organs in favour of genuine psychology and the effect is altogether more impressive. This set piece has a certain kinship with Victorian morality prints such as the fallen woman although one suspects the offence committed here is not that profound (and possibly less sinful than the punishment it will attract). Ulf's characters sometimes look too 'posed' but it works well here and you can sense the penitent is about to kneel in the face of the carefully controlled outrage and superior power of the man who is reprimanding him.
Ulf exploits his medium to the full in this picture creating two extraordinarily attractive men and bathing their bodies in a warm, orange light that is both attractive and atmospheric - reassuringly homely given the ominous subject matter. It's done so well that he gets away with the lack of shadows and classic CGI hovering feet - this last flaw a pet hate of the late Martin of Holland.
This year also saw a series of 17 pictures from Ulf entitled 'The Buddy System', telling the story of a sexual encounter in a military latrine. Such a project invites comparison with Tom of Finland's 'Kake' series, not least for the size of the organs being flourished but Ulf doesn't seek to emulate the pace or erotic intensity that infuses every Kake adventure. There are a couple of spectacular aerial views that Tom would certainly have appreciated but this series more closely resembles the progression of a porn film through it's prescribed 'Stations of the Cock'. Unlike that format, however, Ulf's encounter (somewhat unexpectedly) unfolds with an element of softness and seduction that is evident in the example shown above and ends with a romantic jism-mingling kiss that you won't ever have seen in Kake. The artist's progress in refining his technique can be seen here in the quality of the composition and fine detailing like the tile reflections.
Lest you fear Ulf going soft, this memorable and disturbing image pulls out the stops to portray the horror of a captive facing a daunting level of punishment involving some heavyweight electrical equipment. At this stage the connectivity seems incomplete but likely to involve the prominent steel plug, which despite it's industrial size is not preventing him from leaking excitedly onto the wooden floor.
The aerial viewpoint draws attention to the bareness of the room and the isolation of the victim whose helplessness is reinforced by an ultra-sophisticated, breath-control mask through which his eyes gaze out upwards. In the midst of all this high-tech, control paraphernalia, the presence of humble, domestic, laundry pegs whose contribution to the victim's ordeal would equate to the level of a flea-bite seems just a little incongruous!
(To read these articles from the beginning start with Ulf Retrospective part 1 )
Ulf has a blog The Ulfian which is an interesting mix of his art, political comment and selected porn.
There's also an Ulfian fan club on Google Groups which you have to join (it's free).
The older Fan Club on Yahoo! Groups seems to be inactive now.