|© Olivier Coulange - All rights|
‘Let us first glance at the manner in which the erogenous zones adjust themselves to the new order of things. An important role devolves upon them in the preparation of the sexual excitation. The eye which is very remote from the sexual object, is most often in position, during the relations of object wooing, to become attracted by that particular quality of excitation, the motive of which we designate as beauty in the sexual object.’ - Sigmund Freud
Eroticism is an endless field of exploration and exploitation, for each individual and community. The more one questions it, the more questions and controversies arise. Scientists, philosophers, scholars and artists of all kinds have always mined it but still it remains very much blurred, if not in the dark.
The Spanish painter Pablo Picasso claimed once that, from his point of view, art and eroticism were definitely more than entwined, he was categorical: ‘there’s no difference’.
True that sexual imagery fills all the minds, being as old as human eye, as pregnant as life, as diverse as ideas, as necessary as heart, as fertile as art. Sex and desire are inherent to the complexity of the world, feeding the mystery of its beginning and, as the French painter Gustave Courbet pointed it out through its genius work L’Origine du Monde, the woman carries it all.
Since the ancient Greece, many great visual artists have produced erotic works where female nudity always occupied a central part, figuring various intellectual and sensual meanings, questions and approaches according to times and to their own connections to the womankind and therefore, to the world.
Today French photographer Olivier Coulange inserts his own vision in the prolific history of that obscure object of desire’s depictions, adding some extra contemporary dimensions to it. Consequently, some more interrogations arise from the multiple and ambiguous inscriptions into his peculiar images linking all together woman, desire, sexuality, pornography, eroticism as well as Coulange’s own interactions and positions, both as a man and an artist.
The Eros Plastic series is the successful metamorphosis of porn into art. Porn’s crudity and vulgarity fade away under Coulange’s blur conceived as a sweetening veil to only reveal the feminine sensual moves under sexual pleasure, to allow subtlety and beauty to prevail through nude floating apparitions, ecstatic pauses and ‘Little death’ feelings-, even if porn has been there. One can hear Roland Barthes’s voice saying that ‘the photograph then becomes a bizarre medium, a new hallucination: false on the level of perception, true on the level of time: a temporal hallucination so to speak, a modest, shared hallucination (on the one hand ‘it is not there’ on the other ‘it has indeed been’): a mad image, chafed by reality’.
One doesn’t know if Coulange’s images mean that as a male he repressed what he watched, and/or that as an artist he pleads for the rehabilitation of the woman’s image, and/or just the contrary. But both the male and the artist seem anyway to wonder and invite us to rethink the notion of woman as an object of desire. Coulange encourages us to reconsider the desire of woman, to consider her own climax otherwise than as a pure spectacle for voyeuristic males, but as an intimate subject on its own, as an affirmation that her pleasure should not be denied, forgotten nor violated. It is obviously private and free, it only claims protection for itself as a full and beautiful mystery. The reverse is porn, not art.
Zoé Balthus - October 2011