THE TABOO BODY
AN INTERVIEW WITH DERVIN BATARLO
Dervin Batarlo is a British collage artist creating highly sexualised pieces of gay men. Collaborating with an array of photographers, musicians and magazines, the provocative collage artist makes all the work by hand. This feature is not for the faint hearted.
"Could you please start by telling us about you and your work?"
I am a UK-based collage artist and my work (on paper) revolves around male forms, especially the idealised bodies that are currently being portrayed in magazines (fashion, sports and pornography) and various social media platforms. My aim is to recreate and deconstruct images, by slicing, cropping and reassembling, to create my own abstract interpretation, especially when it comes to gay pornography.
"How did you get to this point of making these explicit collages?"
My background was in fashion design but was inspired to create illustrations using paper after seeing an exhibition by John Stezaker (an English conceptual artist from the 70’s). Also, using paper goes back to my time at university when I would use paper for creating my sewing patterns, in various organic shapes, for my designs (before applying to fabrics). I started with the idea of recreating images, not necessarily of sexual nature but from fashion imagery found in my magazine collection. I started getting drawn to the more sexual imagery, especially whenever I walk past Prowler (a gay sex shop in Soho). I would go in and collect their free magazines, which then became the source for my early explicit collages.
"Your work does feel very 70s and often feels referential to vintage pornography too. With a background in fashion and an interest in collage, what draws you to depict men in such a overly-sexualised context?"
I have always been fascinated by the male bodies, especially in how they are represented in the media. Being a gay man, I am automatically attracted to it. My aim is draw attention to the sexual nature of the original images. When it comes to the images I use from gay pornography, I aim to challenge, what to some, is a taboo, into pieces of art.
"It feels like a political statement to place such images on Instagram which is so heavily censored now, how do you feel that these platforms affect the work you produce?"
I feel that censorship is unnecessary but it does not limit the way I make my art. There are other platforms where I can show my work without the need for censorship, such as Ello and Twitter. It has not stopped me from doing collaborations and commission works.
"Do you consider the pieces to be political?"
Not at all. I create my work based on what I love - art, shapes, composition and beauty. I draw inspiration from topography and aerial photography as well as Constructivism.
"All these elements certainly come together and create pieces that feel thematically to be about beauty. It would be great to hear more about the process, how you bring your pieces into existence."
I have been fortunate enough to collaborate with fantastic photographers and models who supply images for me to use. I have recently collaborated with Boner World Magazine. They have been kind enough to supply me with materials/magazines. Whether I am looking at images in the magazines or images that have been submitted to me, I study these images before cutting them. Once sliced, I spend some time in arranging the images before making a decision on the final collage. The beauty of using printed images is that there is no going back once they have been sliced. There is something organic and spontaneous with that process.
"Finally, why work in an analogue fashion rather than digital?"
I have always enjoyed the fragility and tactility of paper. I feel that in today’s age, when computer programs and apps make it easier to create art, it is important for me to use something as basic as paper to fully connect with what I am creating.