[Y]ou may have come across the work of Alphachanneling on Instagram before — with over half a million followers, the artist’s contribution to the landscape of erotic art has been accomplished in no small part due to the accessible nature of the platform. His “Utopian Erotic” drawings are a delicate expression of explicitly sexual themes; with soft colors, thin lines and psychedelic florals, Alphachanneling captures some of our rawest, most intimate moments as humans through a lens that is overtly and unexpectedly spiritual. PAPER caught up with the artist to talk censorship, divinity in sensuality and the role erotic art plays in our modern lives:
When did you first start drawing nudes?
The human form has always been a compelling subject for me. The works of Egon Schiele, Henry Moore, and Rodin were some of my first inspirations for figurative art, and I was introduced to the practice of life drawing from figure models as a teenager. The human body in art has a timelessness that transcends whatever historical cultural moment we happen to be in. It reminds us of the fundamental human nakedness, stripped from layers of self-conception. It reminds us that through all of time we’ve been the same creature, experiencing joy and suffering, love, sex and death.
Do you use models now or draw from imagination?
In figure drawing my attention was always on capturing the body, the form, the light. It was a very focused kind of effort, and while I deeply respect it, I found I was not expressing what was truly within me. It wasn’t until I dedicated myself to drawing my figures direct from imagination that things started to open up. Drawing without reference forces me to answer all kinds of questions on a personal level, like “what does the exquisite tension of lips pressed against a nipple look like,” “what does a sumptuous ass look like when it is seducing and inviting a lover towards it?” Without objective reference, the next questions become, “what do I want it to look like?” and “what about it is activating and exciting to me?” This kind of questioning leads me to a much more personal expression of the figure. I love the idea of bending and shaping bodies into forms that capture the sensation and experience of our realities; the physical, the energetic, the emotional, the spiritual.
What was the initial inspiration behind them?
The inspiration driving my art is the premise that desire is an expression of the divine, and therefore something to exalt and celebrate in all its forms. In the same way that a plant turns toward the sun, I believe my desire turns me on to that which nourishes me and makes me grow. This outlook is in part a reaction to living in a society which represses, condemns and reduces desire to behaviorism. I’d like to add that I’m speaking only of desire as I’ve experienced it in my life; I’m not speaking for anyone other than myself.
Where do you draw your erotic influences from?
The poetry of Rumi has been a big influence on me. It’s shown me that art can simply be praise and an expression of joy and love. This kind of ecstatic art released me from the idea that art had to contribute some kind of innovation on culture in order to be validated. Novelty isn’t the only form of value, one can repeat what’s already been said a thousand times, and the deeper and more sincerely it is expressed, the more its value increases. I draw my influences from a wide range of sources both high and low, from mysticism and the occult to folk art, outsider art and indigenous art, from pornography, kink and BDSM to yoga, tantra, and the healing arts.
It seems that for the most part you’ve been able to circumvent Instagram’s notoriously strict censorship rules. Why do you think that is?
I think my work has a kind of double nature that makes it confusing to define. It is as delicate and innocent as it is dirty and confrontational. I believe the intention with which something is said has greater significance than the words themselves. The same applies with visual language. Rather than being modest and subtle, I am overt and explicit with the sexuality in my art, but I like to deliver that provocation in the most gentle, graceful and reverential way, through the colors I use and my craftsmanship. Perhaps this has protected my art from tripping the censorship rules as much as it could given the subject matter. Regardless, my work still exists in a precarious place where it is flagged and taken down from time to time.
What role does erotic art play in our lives?
Erotic art can help normalize the natural sexuality that we experience as humans, but yet struggle to find social and cultural acknowledgment of. Erotic art can allow us to explore sexuality and desire in a way that feels safe and approachable and exposes us to a spectrum that may be new and unknown in our experience of our lives. Erotic art expands the language of love and sexuality and reminds us of the beauty of being alive, the beauty of living as a sexual being.
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