MADAME DABI | ITALY
read our interview with Amalia below
HOUSE OF THEODORA CHATS TO AMALIA RUSSIELLO
Amalia Russiello, also known as Madame Dabi, uses the delicate and the dark to create striking scenes in soft hues that explore the world of power play & the beauty of female pleasure.
Your style is reminiscent of the 1920s, where do you draw inspiration from for your boudoir scenes?
Initially, the main source of inspiration for my work were movies and French magazines of that period. Then I began to study illustrators and painters of the beginning of the 20th century up to those of the ‘70s who worked in the world of advertising, fashion and those who also dealt with erotic illustration. When my visual education expanded, inspiration began to come from everyday situations; a lipstick, a perfume, a gesture ...
Can you describe your artistic process?
The creative process is never the same. I can start from a well-defined idea, sometimes I start from the choice of colours, others I sketch some rather random lines and the shape takes on its own. Once I’ve sketched the subject of the central scene I move to the choice of the clothes and the background but the part I prefer is the addition of colours, I can spend hours or days adding details and nuances. And it's always in the phase of colour that I understand if I actually like the illustration I'm working on. I often throw it all away or start over by adding characters or changing the poses. It would be better if this phase came first but unfortunately without colour I can't have a clear idea of each work.
What medium do you like to work in and why?
The materials that I prefer are the soft and pastel crayons. When I was in high school and I started to study drawing I hated them, I gladly used only oil painting, I started using pastels every day during university when my best friend gave me one of those beautiful kits with various types of crayons and pencils. Since then I can't help it! Only recently I've also added modern tools, like drawing software that are indispensable to me especially for collaborations in which I am designing packaging or graphics for fabrics.
Dominance & submission seems to be a theme that runs through your work, what interests you about power play?
I believe that power games are a constant in everyone's life, and domination and submission are not found only in bed. Personally I experience the pleasure and displeasure of power games in everyday life, at school, at work, in the family. I see power play every day in our society in which unfortunately, too often, the woman is seen as the non-consenting victim. I think I started drawing erotic scenes for rebellion rather than for interest in sex. In my art there is always the rematch of women, the role of the master is a role that a woman can hold up perfectly, the submissive chooses to be that only for her pleasure and not out of fear or to please someone. There are no victims or executioners. My illustrations are not a porn scene designed to satisfy only the male perspective. I want an illustration that does not put the magnifying glass on unrealistic expectations, this is why I don't draw men, there are already too many products in this sense. I want to pay attention, even in moments of sexual pleasure, to accurate lingerie, perfect makeup and a decorative and pleasant background. But only for women.
Does your interest in power play extend to your own relationships?
In real life I don't like power games. In bed, everything is allowed in a climate of mutual respect and personally I am both dominatrix and submissive. I believe that duplicity is a very strong component of my personality so I would feel limited if I could not do both, there is no precise rule, everything is very instinctive.
Your art features mostly women, what is it about female pleasure that intrigues you?
I think it makes more sense for me to portray feminine pleasure because it's something I know personally. The complexity of feminine pleasure is something that fascinates me and something I discover over time. The importance of details, mental play and the creation of an entire story behind a single sexual act is something fantastic.
For women, sex has been seen as taboo for too long, and even if we want to pretend that times have changed, a big part of women continue to be ashamed of the subject. As far as I'm concerned I can't accept not facing sex openly. I believe that pleasure is important for everyone and I don't see anything strange in talking about it or drawing it.
You seem to be able to find a wonderful balance between pretty and delicate and dark and erotic. How do you do that?
I believe that in all of us there is something pure and dark together, and exploring both aspects is fundamental. In reality, it is very natural for me to combine these aspects, perhaps because I myself have more nuances. I love latex clothes but also silk and ruffle lingerie, I love the Baroque aesthetic in the same way that I love the ‘20s and the ‘80s punk rock . I think it is normal to have different fantasies and it was normal for me to put them together especially if the result is something beautiful.
What has been your experience of being a female in the erotic art space?
Personally the constant support of other women who feel themselves reflected in my drawings has made my work a positive experience. Today there are more and more women in the erotic art scene and this makes me really happy! I was asked in the past if I ever thought of drawing anonymously because of people's judgement, but it never touched my mind, I believe this gives more strength to my work.
Where is your favourite place to draw? I imagine you sitting in Ladurée, sipping tea, sketching and looking as perfectly styled as the women you draw.
It's nice to be imagined like that, thinking about reality makes me laugh! I rarely draw in cafes but actually I did draw at Ladurée with whom I have been collaborating for some years now. The place where I love to draw is at my desk, in my studio, with all my art materials and books, scented candles and music in the background. I don't pay much attention to my appearance during the creative phase (no silk gown!), but I admit that I always have perfect make-up.
Who are your favourite female artists, living or passed?
I love the illustrations of Gerda Wegener and Jeanne Mammen very much. I love their work but above all I admire their ability to tell something that goes beyond what we see. Another artist I love is the photographer Ellen von Unwerth, I love the way she represents strong women, full of erotic charge and at the same time glamorous.