We were supposed to wait,
Only on the count of five, Uno, dos, tres, cuatro,
But we breakdown before,
Just can’t resist the finality,
Taking XTC to the last XYZ
So here is my master-plan,
We touch, angelic juxtas
Poised angled positions pressing
Skins closer inching mouths
Salty sharpness of tooth
Sliver tongues crescent lips
Searching to assuage
Sucking biting licking kneading
Seeking some succour from
Suicidal weariness so we ball
The only way we know how,
Hard, harder and hardest yet,
For though we can’t tame
The magnificent striped beast,
The menacing stippled tiger
We can at least ride and ride
Until the world ends with
The softest of sighs
Uno, dos, tres
Chambre Close is the collaboration between the writer Serge Bramly and the photographer Bettina Rheims. The elegant and cultured tone of the confessions of Mister X, an amateur photographer and voyeur who lures models back to shabby hotel rooms to engage in acts of ‘visual adultery’ is contrasted against the clinical detachment and raw intimacy of Rheims colour images.
Rheims is justly renowned for her studies of female nudes. As she herself notes, “I love flesh. I am a photographer of the skin.”
Quite recently I was researching H.R Giger’s illustrations for De Sade’s Justine when I stumbled across the work of the German artist Sibylle Ruppert. I immediately wondered how I had never heard of her before as I take some pride in being well versed in Surrealistic/Fantastic/Dark Art and here was an exceptional example of the genre, that furthermore took its cues from the masters of transgressive literature: De Sade (of course), Lautreamont and Bataille, all of whom I have written about.
One can only wonder at the vagaries of recognition. Although she did have some influential admirers, namely Alain Robbe-Grillet, Henri Michaux and especially Giger, who owned a large collection of her work (the only major retrospective to date was at the H.R Giger Musuem), the critical and commercial success that other Fantastic artists of the period enjoyed eluded her. Instead she worked quietly away at producing ever more horrific images from hell.
Born in Frankfurt in 1942 in the middle of a bombing raid of the city, Ruppert’s father was a graphic designer. She would sit entranced watching her father draw. One day she seized his hand and said that she would also draw nice colourful pictures like he did. Soon afterwards she presented her first drawing; it was a brutal picture of a fist striking a face. Sibylle was six at the time.
A determined and driven child Sibylle would produce twenty drawings a day as well as studying ballet. Too tall to be a ballerina, she became a revue dancer, touring the world until one day in New York she decided to quit and dedicate herself to art. Sibylle returned for a while to Frankfurt, giving drawing instructions at the art school her father founded, then moved to Paris, where she exhibited for a number of years before resuming teaching.
As well as the literary influences cited above, all of whom she illustrated, visual traces and echoes can be observed of Bosch, Giger, Fuseli, Bellmer, Blake and Bacon, though this doesn’t in any way detract from her singularly visceral and kinetic imagination. In her paintings and drawings the flesh is always in motion; writhing, straining, collapsing, before undergoing the final monstrous transformation. A truly infernal vision that lingers unsettlingly in the mind.