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Sunday, 19 August 2018

The Art of Homoeros - 6 The Art of The Cross

Homoeros - mob_s_revenge_02
In the last instalment we saw a gangland revenge inflicted in melodramatic style using a whip in a deserted car park, but this 'stake out' is chillingly direct and simple by comparison, the methodology implying an intention to detain indefinitely.

Before, the tormentor's garb of vest and braces, was conventional hoodlum attire. This time the hit man's clothes are tight-fitting, casual and self-consciously sexual. It's the style of young people - which he clearly is not. Coupled with the hardness of his expression and the sledgehammer in his hand (not a usual tool for fixing nails) you sense that this is a very unpredictable and dangerous man. The splash of blood on his designer jeans is a surprisingly disturbing detail.

The setting for this group of images is a luxurious, modern patio complete with swimming pool and sea view. Whether it's the victim's pad or that of the man he double-crossed we can only guess, but it's sophistication makes the cruelty of the scene all the more shocking.

There are a number of nailing pictures in Homoeros' early work and in this interest he may be influenced by the raw images of Dante and Blake. It's no surprise where that leads.
 
Homoeros - 26_265_urban_crucifixion_01
 This powerful image is representative of an on-going preoccupation with crucifixion-like punishments for which Homoeros is perhaps best known. In this case a T-structure is used from which the victim is suspended by shackles, like the figurehead of a sailing ship.

Using a builder/carpenter as the tormentor (still in his work clothes) and his yard as the (not quite) private venue gives the scene a strange sense of distorted normality. His occupation offers a weirdly logical explanation of the unconventional wooden punishment structure. The victim has clearly been chastised with a whip or cane prior to suspension, but the sinister overtones of the first picture are completely absent. In fact the carpenter looks up wistfully at his victim now, as though awed by his own handiwork. This feels more like an S&M experiment rather than anything else.

Homoeros - Crucifixion
You probably can't say that about this picture (click on smaller images to expand).

There's an obvious connection with Christian imagery which Homoeros' slender physiques seem to draw out. However the essence of his depiction here is almost the reverse in terms of message.

Believers in the religious story portray the victim as the most ordinary of men, middle aged, with a scrawny body and bedraggled hair, he usually is shown meeting his (judicial) fate under ominous, threatening skies and with calm, relaxed resignation. The Christian story links crucifixion with death but it's by no means a given, that death is inevitably the outcome of this punishment (see my footnote below).

In contrast to this, Homoeros depicts a youthful, muscle god, who cannot understand why this terrible punishment has been inflicted on him. Even his outstretched arms shout out, "Why me?" Indeed his cross bears no explanatory label of his crime. He seems to have been put on display for all to see and admire - like a pinned butterfly. Even the glorious backdrop seems to trivialise the attendant pain by glorifying the spectacle, making a pretty picture of it and, in the process, mocking his self-cultivated, bodily beauty.

 The captive's mute protests here are apt. Homoeros has produced many scenes like this, presented with no hint of what gave rise to the punishment. Occasionally there's the clue of a spectator below, looking vengeful or heartbroken. They exchange meaningful looks with the damned man and these images can be quite expressive.

Homoeros - sorrow_01_sunset
Here Homoeros explores the feelings of one such onlooker. It isn't clear if he's the person responsible for the crucifixion or merely a witness to it, but his involvement and distress is clear. His personal feelings towards for the victim are explored further in other pictures, showing him bowed before the cross in one, as though seeking the victim's forgiveness or praying for him. In another he is shown turning away with tear-streaked face. The colour tones are sober, underlining the sadness, lightened only by the watery highlights cast by the symbolic, setting sun. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the men in this pictures are lovers or at least have strong feelings for each other and there's a powerful sense of loss and separation in the scene.

The clothing and the half-timbered building in the background have a medieval feel about them, suggesting a (supposedly) more earthy, brutal era than ours, but it's not one when this form of punishment was practised. The participants themselves have a clean, modern look about them, this is another fantasy.

Homoeros - crux_02
This picture is not part of the same set but there's an obvious stylistic connection with it. It's interesting because the artist repeats the device of a dangling noose in the background which we also saw in the 'WIP' picture of Part 5. It's another very gloomy scenario, but that is not allowed to not dim the beauty of the victim.

This image makes me wonder if the thought process is partly to do with the oppression of 'beautiful people', especially by religions, metaphorically crucifying gay men. This inversion of the iconic Christian imagery is supremely ironic and apt. In this context the noose may symbolise depression and suicide.

Homoeros - lovers_crucfied_01
That thought process finds some support in this image which explicitly labels the victims as gay lovers, being crucified (presumably) for their deviance and left to suffer together. Homoeros shows their confused fear and distress but also their loyal support for each other in their hour of need. Their physical beauty remains undimmed, illuminated by the soft light of the setting sun once more, the lengthening shadows signalling the onset of darkness.

Homoeros - 422_rocco_g3m_12
The punishment of lovers seems to be the theme here too. 'Rocco' is identified as a slave in other pictures in the group but as usual there's no explicit explanation of his crime. These two could be mere criminals, but their youthful beauty is scarcely the typical stereotyping of felons (even the excruciatingly drawn out execution of two young brothers in 'Hang 'Em High' paints them as reluctant criminals). The inclusion of two 'Roman' soldiers in this picture is a significant addition, explicitly identifying the state as the perpetrator of their agony.


Homoeros - 257d_tyler_the_blacksmiths_son_38
 Crucifixion also features as the gruesome culmination of 3 longer stories by Homoeros, none of which can be interpreted as gay oppression scenarios (you may be glad to know). 'The Blacksmith's Son', illustrated here, sees a young man of humble origins, but impeccable physique, dallying with a woman of higher estate in a sort of Middle Ages setting. He persists despite the warnings of his father about her disapproving brothers.

They subsequently abduct him in the street and inflict a multi-faceted, painful punishment for his impudence, including the novel idea of inserting of rings in his nipples (which can be seen in the picture above) perhaps denoting his relegation to slave status. There's also some rather less than novel anal action, not fun for a straight guy of course. The Blacksmith's son is painted throughout as an innocent who believes that love conquers all and when his story arrives at this scene, the brutal finality surprises and shocks him as much as it does us.

If one thing is known for sure about crucifixion, it is that it is extremely painful and Tyler is left to learn that lesson by his torturers. The story closes intriguingly, with one brother returning that night to inspect the now-unconscious Tyler by the light of a flaming torch.

The 'model' for this story is Tyler who we previously saw banged up in prison in Part 4


Homoeros - 308 hacker 22
'The Hacker' is a much more sinister story set in the modern day. Recent extradition hearings relating to this offence have made great play of the horrors of the US prison system, but this wayward, young computer buff finds that the Governmental punishment for interfering with their data is much more extreme than anyone would expect. Tried and condemned he is stripped and sexually abused by his guards (with a hint of electro-torture too). Pretty routine gay fantasy so far, but in a shocking finale he is escorted to a gymnasium and (above) nailed to a wooden beam, at the behest of a female official. Too late he realises the full enormity of his punishment and Homoeros' knack for giving his captives suitably shocked and incredulous expressions is given full rein as he grasps the reality of what is planned for him.

308 hacker 27
The victim's humiliation continues with every detail being recorded by an official photographer. The beam is hoisted into the air with him still hanging from it by his wrists. I suppose the choice of wrists to be the primary instrument of his punishment (inflicting what would be extreme pain and probable disablement) may relate to their role in his keyboard-typing crime.

Finally he is transported by the truck, still danging by his wrists, to a stadium where the public can view him as the crossbeam beam is lifted into it's final place on top of an upright post. Interestingly the only spectators Homoeros shows taking advantage this grisly 'photo opportunity' are two young women. I will come back to Homoeros' use of women in a separate instalment of this series.

448_max_crucified_00b
Finally, this scene is from one of his most recent series, a full length story recounting a Roman slave's affair with his mistress and betrayal by her brother, who has his own designs on Max's love machine. Like the Blacksmith's son, this victim is straight and misguided, but then the theme of forbidden love was never the sole prerogative of gays.

Max is tried by the family and condemned. The steps in his crucifixion are depicted across 15 or so pictures, with his desperate pleas and protests going unheeded by the vengeful brothers and their father. The images are bathed in a Mediterranean light producing brilliant colours which embellish the love scenes but seem strangely inappropriate as the brutal punishment takes it's course. 

448_max_crucified_00k
The final denouement is enacted before a towering Colosseum-like structure which seems to give a public and pseudo-judicial seal on Max's fate. Expelled from the house where he worked, Max is left to face his demise alone, save for those who happen to pass by.

In this story Homoeros elaborates on his theme of the punisher with a conscience, explaining how the Max's owner (in the purple robe) is reluctant to punish him in this way because he is was expensive to buy and made a good and pleasant servant. However he cannot overlook the offence with his malevolent son insistently reading out the 'rule book' to him.

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I know not all of my readers will appreciate these images, with their controlled and ritualised brutality and violence. The 'builders yard' image above represents it as a spectacular extreme in bondage but most of the images feature more the severe restraint technique taken from religious sources. I have chosen the least bloodthirsty ones but acknowledge that they stand at the far boundaries of S&M.

I have featured crucifixion images in this blog before (click on 'crucified' label at the foot of this post to see) but Homoeros' imaginings stand out, most obviously for the shocking incongruity of the youthful, attractive subjects, the carefully chosen and often joyful colour tones and a clinically clean technique that almost sanitises the subject compared with more 'realistic', gloomy creations. However, Homoeros does not simply portray figures on a cross, he explores the whole process and the emotions of those involved in a non-religious context which is quite illuminating and draws out the theme of unstoppable, blind and extremely cruel justice. That makes them worthy of discussion here.

Footnote
 There are still doubts today about how lethal the practise of crucifixion was in itself and whether the death of the victim was actually triggered by responses to prolonged physical stress or caused by other injuries inflicted on him at the same time. There is hardly any physical evidence of them taking place but there are documented accounts of incidents (in addition to that described in the Bible). Some accounts refer to crucifixion as an interim torture and humiliation on the way to execution by more direct means. Inevitably all these are less than detailed and not necessarily objective so the whole subject is shrouded in a degree of mystery and uncertainty.

Next time: Homoeros visits the St Sebastian theme

Read this series from Part 1

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Homoeros Gallery Pages

for more crucifixion images click on the label below

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