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Monday, 1 August 2022

The Art of Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh (or 'Gil800' as he signs his pictures) has been around for some years portraying the capture and torment of men, mainly mature ones with bodies of extraordinary muscularity. It's a very S&M gay fantasy, expressing the idea that the epitome of manly strength is not immune to domination and control.

Gilgamesh - Heroes in Trouble

This image by him shows two muscular, hairy men stretched out on the rack in a dank dungeon. The back-breaking variation of this terrible fate, shown on the right is highly original and very erotic. These men are described simply as Heroes by the artist, implying that they habitually engage in worthy missions for the benefit of mankind. But on this occasion, their virtuous aims, extreme strength and manliness, even though they were working together, was not enough to overcome the dark forces that flourish in Gilgamesh's imagination. 

Now they are trapped together in painful restraint, in a stark, bare cell, completely at the mercy of their captor. A pool of water on the floor (something of a trademark in Gil's images) adds to the sense of being forgotten in comfortless, cold incarceration. We do not know if these men are buddies, something closer or simply comrades in arms but in any case they must witness each other's suffering. They lie facing the door, helplessly awaiting the return of their nemesis (as do we, but with rather more different hopes).

 

Gilgamesh - Sneaky Cops in trouble

The theme of a captive forced to watch his buddy being degraded is explored more explicitly in the Sneaky Cops mini-series. Generally Gil does not provide much information about causes and motivations behind his predicaments but he does indicate here that this is a Police, undercover infiltration of a gay, leathermen's organisation that has gone badly wrong. 

This gay man is not intimidated by discovering they are Policemen, nor by their physical bulk, since he is equally well developed and in any case their powerful physiques are comfortably neutralised by the heavy duty chains and pillory-style restraints. 

Gil shows the on-looking cop's horror as his colleague is forced to his knees for a straight bigot's nightmare commencing with the terrifying 'humbler', stretching and presenting his balls for punishment from behind. The insertion of a sizeable butt plug is even more challenging. These cops in their ignorance will not appreciate that it is a perverse kindness, intended to loosen him up for the main event. Sent to investigate reports of sodomy, they will now experience it first hand, spiced with the trappings of S&M. 


Gilgamesh - Captive of the Leathermen (my title)

Leatherman scenarios featured prominently in Gilgamesh's early work, like this example from circa 2006. There's an element of ambiguity about whether this is pure play or something more serious, the handcuff-like cock tether might indicate it's another take on the captive cop storyline, with the blindfold preventing any identification of the perpetrators afterwards. 

The medieval-flavoured wooden yoke and the authenticity of the dungeon setting suggest disturbingly 'unusual' punishments are in prospect for the captive. For now humble clothes pegs apply nagging, point-pain to his huge, shapely pecs - a standout feature of the picture, although his thigh development is equally impressive. 

The viewpoint used by the artist is clever. Peering over the leatherman's shoulder, we can share his fascination with this remarkable physique which he has frozen in a parody of the traditional, muscleman, bicep-flexing pose. 


Gilgamesh - The New Prisoner

Luscious pecs are also the central feature of this picture, which is one of my favourites. This handsome bodybuilder being welcomed to the dungeon by a guard, who looks too pleased by half, is a delicious study in youthful bewilderment and dread. Both men are clothed below the waist suggesting he's a new arrival. "Why have you brought me here?" he would no doubt say if he did not have an uncomfortable ball-gag in his mouth. That's a question Gilgamesh doesn't really answer fully but the confusion and uncertainty of newly captured men is the essence of his art.

You get a glimpse of the artist's Latin roots in the characterisation of the guard. I suspect the juxtaposition with his Anglo-Saxon captive here might be born of a young, Mexican man fantasising about possessing the handsome studs in American beefcake mags. 

He gravitates to more mature men in later work.


Gilgamesh - Incarcerated Adventurers (my title)

The immediate prospect for most of Gilgamesh's captures is incarceration. This scene showing three 'Adventurers' stripped naked, shackled and locked up in separate cells is vivid. The heavy bars of these cells obscure our sight of the victims but it amplifies the sense of uncompromising imprisonment. We get a good enough sight of them in the scenes that follow.

This scene reminds me very much of the fate of the players of Raytown Softball Team in Amalaric's Modern Slavery series. They were similarly treated - physically isolated while awaiting individual assessment and despatch to a suitable slave auction. Separating members of a group in captivity is a basic security precaution, it neutralises the power of the group but also implants the worrying idea that they might be on their own eventually. The sense of comradeship still lingers with these three, encouraging them to vent their anger at their treatment. They don't quite understand yet that their captors are indifferent to it - and may well enjoy it.


Gilgamesh - Defeated Adventurers p0

These 'adventurers' are not split up immediately and their indignation persists in this rather powerful picture as they are taken from their cells and led away through narrow, underground passageways by an uncaring guard whose hood (suggestive of grim, medieval torture and execution) might be expected to prompt a more sober reaction. They can't see the determined malevolence in his eyes yet. There's a heady mix of wounded pride, helplessness and fear in this picture.

 'Adventurers' pop up regularly in Gilgamesh's work. It's a term suggestive of explorers prying into forbidden places in search of hidden 'treasures'. Men who are confident and assertive. We do not know if these intruders are simply curious explorers or opportunistic thieves, but those who pry where they are not welcome have to take the rough with the smooth when it comes to consequences. 

This scenario in which the captive is led away by his captors to a more remote, 'special' place is vividly expressive of a man being controlled and progressively distanced from his old life, descending into subservience. Their nudity and heavy iron collars serve a similar purpose of course. Scenes like this feature in many of Gil's 'storyettes', notably Sergei's Desert Adventure' and 'The Enslavement of Igor' (of which more in later posts). 


Gilgamesh - Defeated Adventurers

At this point the group's indignation is well and truly dispelled as they are lined up in their shackles like new recruits under orders. They stare straight ahead with faces that are meant to be impassive but still betray their anxiety and fear of the man who is now the master of them all.    

Rather than leaving them naked and feeling exposed, he has dressed them in identical 'uniforms'. Their iron collars have acquired rigid, built-in, bit-gags and their previously undamaged nipples have been pierced to accommodate the chunky cross-bars of U-loops. Not least, their cocks have been enclosed in substantial chastity cages hung from chains around their waists although these devices seem designed to deflect arousal, rather than preventing it. 

These hard restraints highlight the muscularity of the men and in a sense show respect for it, but simultaneously they draw attention to points of erotic interest, assigning them a new group identity as sexual objects. Gilgamesh calls this process 'decorating' captives and it's a part of their 'induction' which the captors enjoy for it's own sake. Dressing a man like a doll is symbolic of ownership and control. Having a group of unwilling men to dress in this way must be even more satisfying, a demonstration of overwhelming subjugation.

This group are a good example of Gil's more mature men. Their muscles are still formidable but have lost their youthful smoothness and become as grizzled as their faces. Their bodies have the 'cut' style of musculature that is the norm in top-flight bodybuilding, but it's severity is mellowed here by the softening of tissue with age.


Gilgamesh - Come with me (my title)

This image employs similar fetish motifs and seems to express that idea of ownership in a even more sexual sense, indicated by the intimate chain lead. This top plainly takes a pride in his own, very individualistic appearance and you sense he wants his younger sub to reflect a similar high standard. The emphatic gag tells everyone, not just the sub, that he is a very strict disciplinarian. The captives bewildered eyes seem to be trying to tell him that it's all a terrible mistake. Gilgamesh is very clever with eyes.

There's an ambiguity about time and space in this and other pictures by this artist. The leather and stainless steel fetish gear adorning the sub is very much of today, but the top's knee-length boots and arm protectors seem to belong to earlier, less industrial age, just like the executioner's hood in the previous pictures. It's as though these captives are men who have unwittingly stumbled into a different time and culture. 


Gilgamesh - This Way Please

The last image was an early example of that frightening walk into the unknown which all new captives must experience but this more recent example is much more sophisticated and polished. Gilgamesh says it's a hero being taken to the lower levels of the castle, after being discovered hanging around the treasury. That language seems to imply baser motives than you would normally expect from a hero. 

He's an exceedingly mature hero too but that doesn't save him from being stripped, gagged and shackled in cold iron, just as younger men are. The unclothing has revealed a richly-muscled torso, thickly matted with hair. He is forced to wade through waste water in this subterranean tunnel to reach his place of captivity, another degradation and a sure sign that comforts will be few during his imprisonment. The coming interrogation is a frightening prospect.

The title suggests the guard is courteous, but the facial expressions of both men - determined anger vs resentment and discomfort - suggest that it's purely ironic. It appears the guard is applying pressure out of our sight to compel compliance. We can't see anything but there's a powerful sense of physical interaction. 



Gil uses the same trick of juxtaposing two characters closely together to create a sense of interaction in this scenario where it appears a different pair* of men have reached their destination - a bare room which contains few clues to it's function. Likewise it's not clear what the guard is doing with the the gag but the bigger man stands passively with fearful eyes, letting him do it. He actually dwarfs his guard in size, obliging him to stand on a step to reach up to the gag but he's heavily shackled so his physical strength is useless. However, it's clear that he's psychologically cowed too, incapable of resisting.

*It's possible this captive is one of the three adventurers led through the tunnel previously.


Gilgamesh - (On the) Way To A New Home

 These two men have time to consider what the future holds for them, as they are transported together to a place of incarceration in a prison wagon of some sort. The setting sun suggests it's been a long journey and seems to symbolise the end of an era in their lives. As the stress of the ride and the captivity that awaits them takes hold, they argue about their 'mistakes', a word that suggests they were partners, buddies, working together. 

This little vignette shows Gilgamesh's interest in the feelings of his men as they gradually descend into hopeless captivity. And these are strong men remember. Not just physically, but mentally strong enough to dedicate a substantial part of their lives to developing their amazing physiques and  making their way in an occupation (worthy or not) that has ultimately pitted them against an organisation powerful enough to abduct and enslave them - with impunity.


Gilgamesh - Heroes in Peril

These two men are discovering the continuing unpleasantness of captivity as, fresh from their 'rest' on the rack (top picture), they are readied to witness each other's interrogation or punishment or probably both. Their restraints combine immobilisation with discomfort and produce suggestive, inviting displays. The two hooded torturers and the crucifix on the wall conjure up once again the medieval cruelties of The Inquisition. Perhaps the relationship between these two men is being called into question, so they must suffer together for that reason, but Gilgamesh's tormentors don't seem to need any particular reason or authorisation for practising their craft.



Gilgamesh - Heroes in Peril

Respite from torment comes in a qualified form. Separated from his companion and alone in a comfortless cell, the captive is still kept naked, still gagged and still restrained in harsh irons which deny him even the luxury of being able to lay down properly to sleep. A chunky chastity cage cuts off the possibility of comfort in the fleeting pleasure of private sexual relief.

Ultimately the outcome for all captives in Gilgamesh's world it seems
is despair - and judging by the skull - a lingering death.

More Gilgamesh at mitchmen in Part 2

 

Links

https://www.pixiv.net/en/users/19963155

Pixiv has the most comprehensive and best organised collection of his recent work with helpful narratives that add colour and background to the stories he tells

https://www.deviantart.com/gilgamesh800

There are older images on Deviant Art which are not included in the pixiv collection. They tend to lack explanatory titles or narrative information but this site does provide an easily scannable overview of it's contents.

https://twitter.com/Gil8001

 I haven't explored the twitter gallery in depth, there's no overview, just sequential postings which appear to mirror pixiv with slightly different comments, but it's also possible there are works there that don't appear anywhere else.

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