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Apollonia Saintclair

The artist creating neo-noir surrealist sexscapes

We talk to Apollonia Saintclair, the artist who’s collected thousands of obsessed fans on Tumblr with her weird and wonderful black and white erotica

If a female clone of Edward Gorey had been raised in the ‘90s on a strict diet of David Lynch, Junji Ito, and J.G. Ballard and grew up to specialize in satirical fetish erotica, the result would still pale in comparison to the art of Apollonia Saintclair, the artist behind these idiosyncratic old-school erotic drawings in black-and-white ink. But describing them simply as “black and white erotic drawings” fails to capture their neo-noir surrealism, wicked humour, and savagely spot-on details. Her illustrated anti-heroines masturbate with monsters, smartphones, and guns and go foraging for cock-shaped mushrooms. They have impeccable taste in lingerie and katanas and know fuccbois are single-use only.

Saintclair’s chokehold on the zeitgeist has collected her hundreds of thousands of obsessed fans on Tumblr and Instagram. “Would you please draw anything involving #foreskin?” they comment. “I want this as a permanent part of my flesh!” She has collaborated with Erika Lust and appeared in many magazines including ADULT and NAKID. But despite this, she remains anonymous — no one knows her real name or face or anything really except that she lives in Europe. “Ink is my blood,” reads the cryptic bio on her Instagram. “I draw for my own sake and for your pleasure.” We caught up with the artist to discuss erotica as commentary, frustrating misconceptions about female sexuality, and Old World vs. New World attitudes towards sex.

What inspired the alias of "Apollonia Saintclair" and is she a separate persona from your everyday self?

Apollonia Saintclair: I prefer not to answer this question directly, but I can give you some pointers. There is of course a long tradition of pseudonyms in erotic literature, but that is not what motivates my name. Apollonia Saintclair is a public woman who publishes her drawings. I made the choice early on to separate my personal life from my public life. Indeed, I personally believe that in our "selfie" society. privacy is one of the last true luxuries. I do not feel the need to appear in person next to my drawings. These are full-fledged stories that speak for themselves and should not require a parasite narrative by their author.

How would you describe your art?

Apollonia Saintclair: I should leave it to others. But you could call it a work born of the need to enjoy myself. We all have liked books or seen films that have left us with an intense feeling of marvel. And we have in us the desire to get back into these enchanted worlds indefinitely. As the wonder unfortunately lasts a limited time, I felt the need to try to create myself such bubbles of fiction. And I quickly discovered to my surprise that an increasing number of people also took pleasure in contemplating my work.

Tell me about the circumstances surrounding the very first piece of erotic art you made.

Apollonia Saintclair: Perhaps not surprisingly after this introduction, my first real erotic work was not a drawing, but a short story inspired by a comic book that I had read years before. If I remember correctly, it was a fantastic tale including some immemorial worship in an underground Hindu temple and a living statue. Sounds a bit overdone, doesn’t it? But the reason I cite this youthful sin is because I think that the atmosphere of the story matches somehow many works I’m drawing today.

“There is a tiny minority of fundamentalists who are trying to impose a very limited vision of life. As they are very noisy, they seem to be numerous and powerful. They are not” – Apollonia Saintclair

Does all of your art take place in the same universe, and is that our universe?

Apollonia Saintclair: I'm not trying to create a coherent universe like in a graphic novel. I think my perspective is fundamentally realistic, but gazed through a fantastic filter. When we see a picture, we see it through a multitude of other images stored in our brain. There is no virgin frames. That is why I am very interested into images we believed to see in the twilight. These are visions that the brain projects in the ambivalent light. I am convinced that the people of the Middle Ages really saw angels and those of Antiquity satyrs and nymphs. These images were the product of the encounter between an uncertain reality and their desires or fears.

A lot of your art appears to double as erotica and social commentary or even satire. Is this your intention, and what do you think qualifies a piece of erotica as political or social commentary?

Apollonia Saintclair: I try to draw ambivalent works where the meaning differs depending on the viewer. This is not necessarily suitable for a political message. So no, I have no specific agenda. Of course, I do not mean to pull myself completely out of time and many drawings are reference to current events or ideas. I am an observer and do not consider erotica as an end in itself but rather as a privileged perspective – since it is so much part of the private and the public domain – to be able to talk about our world in general.

Your art is also simultaneously erotic, humorous (especially when paired with your titles), violent, and grotesque. Do you think society has an aversion to these things coexisting and why or why not? 

Apollonia Saintclair: I do not think so and the number of people who follow my work with benevolence seems to confirm this impression. There is a tiny minority of fundamentalists who are trying to impose a very limited vision of life. As they are very noisy, they seem to be numerous and powerful. They are not. The problem with them is that they take everything literally; they are not willing to understand irony or any form of meaningful complexity. These are new iconoclasts who will, when left to do so, break with a sledgehammer the breasts of the Venus de Milo. It is an unfortunate collateral of our hypermedial society. But when I also see the bloom of fresh and unconstrained creativity on the internet I feel very confident that we, despite everything, are moving in the right direction.

As an Old World resident, what do you think about our New World attitudes regarding sex, especially female sexuality?

Apollonia Saintclair: I am an external spectator and frankly I often do not understand these raging diatribes raging. I remember for example the strange discussion that surrounded a cover by Milo Manara for Spider Woman. I am often surprised by what is considered offensive or sexist. According to some of these standards no Pope would have ever allowed Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel. Fortunately more and more women speak out and help to broaden the debate – and the mental horizon of some.

What is the most frustrating thing that people don't understand about female sexuality?

Apollonia Saintclair: Probably the fact of wanting to cast all women – and men by the way – in the same mold. Sexuality, especially female sexuality, is multifaceted. It is very personal, very individual. This is like the nine-tenths of your personality hidden under the tip of the iceberg. I find the prudishness of conservative institutions as infuriating as the self-improvement section in lifestyle magazines by the way. Of course you need models to advance in your discovery of sexuality, but they should not confine anyone in a predefined role.

You have quite a following on Tumblr and Instagram. What about your art do you think makes it so perfect for dissemination across the Internet? 

Apollonia Saintclair: If I knew, I would sell the recipe and get as rich as the Heinz family.