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Friday, 9 May 2008

Mitchell's A to Z of Fetish Artists - Bastille (updated Feb 2020)


Bastille - Flipper

 Bastille's art is stylish and unashamedly erotic, sleazy even. He has an deep interest in the physicality of male attraction and the process of 'hooking up' with a prospective partner.
This pin-ball player observed in a bar epitomises the attractions of 'rough trade'.

Bastille - Metro


He often observes skinhead men, this one depicted in a Paris Metro station, the one from which he apparently took his artist name. Skinheads are usually associated with aggression but this one is sending out signals of a different sort.

Bastille - Bag

An encounter in a locker room seemingly initiated by direct intimate contact rather than clever chat-up lines. The dirty clothing, the work boots and the bag of mysterious equipment show where this is heading. The man in blue correcting his dress seems 'curious' about it. Finding a partner who shares an interest in deep sleaze must be enormously difficult and the excitement of making contact can only be imagined by more conventional souls. Bastille's fascination with that search is easy to understand.

Bastille - Discovery
A man in overalls allows himself to be undressed and fondled by another who has a rough, gangsterish appearance. The exchange of looks here between the experienced man leading the way and his uncertain, but clearly receptive, prospect is marvellous. The green tint of their skins suggests a mysterious, secretive  atmosphere.

I don't know if the title is Bastille's, but it is deliciously ambiguous, able to refer to either of this unlikely pair discovering the other, or to their hidden feelings emerging, or it may simply reference the body part through which they are making their physical connection, which can just be discerned at the foot of the image. I imagine there's an uncensored version somewhere but I haven't found it.

Bastille's images often come with inscriptions or cryptic notes, but they are usually hand written (and difficult to read). This one seems to have a borrowed text that charts the seduction of a garage mechanic and his initiation into darker arts than are actually shown in the picture. Whilst it fits Bastille's subject-matter I don't know if this is original. However the suggested outcome adds an element of excitement to their image and attaches a whole new significance to the title.


Bastille - Rub-a-dub (detail)

Bastille's work leads us into mysterious, earthy practices. Painted in slightly washed out colours, characters with exotic outfits, masks and tubes manoeuvre and wallow in their sexuality.

 The example shown is a detail from a larger picture which shows of a grotesque orgy of male sensuality. As it takes place a man sits in his bathtub behind the curtain watching, fascinated, but intimidated by what he sees. The boat here appears to symbolise his naivety and to be both hiding and pointing out the physical manifestation of his interest. The orgy unveils outwards towards the right as though indicative of the journey of discovery that lies ahead of him. A condom draped over the rim of the bath suggests it's a journey already started.

Bastille - Pigs
This is one of Bastille's less challenging orgies, the appelation 'pig' ('schwein' in German) appears often in his pictures signifying the mutual desire of these men for earthy, sensual experiences.
These slender bubble-bottomed men are more typical of Bastille's output than the muscular beefcake of the 'boat' picture above. Their ordinary appearance makes their activities seem more real and hence more challenging to the unconverted. 

Bastille - Corporal Familiarity
This slightly odd imagining with two men bound together by straps and chains
 seems to exemplify Bastille's search for ever-deeper intimacy and sharing.
The complex leather and rubber attire makes it highly ritualistice.
The hands plunging into the boots at the bottom are unexpectedly erotic.

Bastille - Grotesque (detail)
Some pictures have a Breugel-like, surreal appearance - hell and monsters in this example.
You should have no difficulty finding the unsensored version via the links below.

Bastille - Rubber Party

Here the warm palettes of the old masters and their crowded scenes showing the torments of damnation provide a template for a wild celebration of male sexuality which rejects those warnings.
Bastille's artistic sensibility gives these images a substance that demands respect

Bastille- Ride a Cock Horse

Bastille's erotica is pervaded by a deep sense of ritual, seen not just in the spectacular orgy scenes but also in the attention he pays to cruising and acquiring prospective partner. That ritual is usually cloaked in the paraphenalia of rubber fetish but in this picture he uses more stereotypical allusions. This exotic costumery references the historical imagery of Samurai warriors and Roman soldiers blended with  masks and serpent-like tongues to create an intense and mysterious ceremony for an initiate, with the collar and chain symbolising his subservience.

I'm uncertain about the meaning of the fishnet stockings, but they are sexy. Bastille doesn't seem to be interested in gender identity, but he does seem to subscribe to the ancient traditions of mentoring and men serving their elders until they reach full maturity.

For once the lighting is bright and pastel shaded and despite the exaggerated, explicit eroticism it's not sleazy. There is a formality to the scene that seems have an almost religious air. The nursery rhyme title is self-mocking. This has the feel of a picture that has a message and is intended to be displayed.

Bastille's pictures are serious art, his artistic sensibility pervades them all, even those with challenging erotic content.


There's a useful collection and biography at Bastille 1929-1990
also at SLM Stockholm and Daddy's Here 

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