Thursday, 28 January 2016

GothicNarcissus’ 10th year

Looking back I can say that 2006 has been a pivotal year in my life for so many reasons: one of them is I joined deviantART and started taking photos. Sure, the first “real” (as in aesthetically and conceptually challenging) photos I did in 2007, and it’s in 2009 that I bought my first reflex and started shooting other people, but those first naive selfies I took on October 9th and first published on October 28th 2006 planted the seed of what would become a very important part of my life.
A Prince In Green by GothicNarcissus The Only One by GothicNarcissus

I have already written a couple of posts (like this one and this one) explaining how I went from collecting random images from all around the web to following artist on deviantART, then attempting to emulate them and eventually finding my own way. I think – and I hope! – that I have evolved into my own thing rather than being someone else’s copycat, but for a reason or another I still owe them all big time: they probably don’t even know who I am, let alone what they’ve done for me, but they helped me grow either by planting some interesting ideas in my head, making me discover a certain kind of aesthetics, or simply luring me to deviantART and making me interested in creating art in the first place. This is why I have decided to do a little project with a double aim: to celebrate my tenth anniversary and to express my gratitude to my unwitting masters. Therefore, once a month this year I will be publishing a photo which pays homage to one of those artists who influenced me back then. It’s going to be quite a challenge, for what I’ll try to do is to borrow some recurring themes or motives from the works they used to do ten years ago, but give them my own twist, with my own style and ideas and, of course, the experience I have gained in the past ten years.
As an artist, my endeavour is to constantly look forward, grow and get better. But solid buildings need solid foundations, so I think it’s important to just stop for a moment, sometimes, look back and pay respect to the things that forged our artistic identity.
Of course, a big and special thanks also goes to those who have followed and supported me all through these years, both from the beginning and joining me in the meantime: your enthusiasm has kept me motivated and your feedback has helped me get better and challenge my comfort zone to deliver something that would surprise you. I don’t know if I would have made it to my tenth year without you.

Monday, 25 January 2016

The Infernal Lords XXVIII: Rosiel

We thought love could change our names
And free us from our earthly chains.

Oh, we wanted to believe in it,
To believe in it,
But they couldn’t.
We wanted to believe that love
Could lift us to the skies and above,
But they wouldn’t

[ Darlings – Susanne Sundfør ]
Rosiel by GothicNarcissusMarquis Rosiel is a former Dominion who rebelled against Yahweh. Realising immediately the immense power of persuasion of two of Heaven’s greatest taboos, Love and Erotic Pleasure, since before the Great Heavenly War he took an active role in recruiting new Angels to Emperor Lucifer’s cause, working closely with Count Asmodeus and Princess Lilith. While his two comrades focussed respectively on Lust and sexual instincts, he was more keen on the pleasures of sheer seduction, as well as showing more or less directly to fellow Angels how Love could be a mutual and unstoppable force, different from the one-sided worship Yahweh demanded of them. Among those he turned against God are Marquis Andrealphus and Duke Xaphan, whose love for Marquise Anamelech and Queen Barbelo respectively he encouraged, and his former Chief, Prince Absinthion.
After his Fall, he took such pride in being accused of tainting the Love of God that he styled himself the Demon of Tainted Love, making it to the Fourth Level; and indeed he can manipulate other beings’ feelings, most notably the Mortals’, and direct their affection at his will, towards mundane things and consuming affairs. He’s often spotted in the Sublunar World and his white wings and youthful, innocent appearance gave rise to many human legends such as the winged God of Love, Cupid.
His powers work to a much lesser extent on the other Demons, but he occasionally enjoys creating ephemeral tension between the Courtiers, much to the amusement of his great friend, Countess Jezebeth, who can gossip about that. Despite the tricks he plays, he’s a beloved figure at Court as many of the Fallen Angels he helped turn still hold him in great regard; he’s especially close to Marquise Anamelech and Marquise Andrealphus, being himself an Astral Demon, who controls the influence of Uranus. Along with Marquis Leonard, Marquise Naamah and, occasionally, Duke Astaroth, he’s also part of Princess Lilith’s retinue of Incubi and Succubi, nightly Demons who fly to Earth to feed off the energies of unaware sleeping Mortals.

Rosiel: development and symbolysm

Photo, concept, manipulation, frame design, styling: GothicNarcissus
Model, hair: Edoardo Marreu
Additional resources: Myruso (wallpaper)

Oh boy, Rosiel. Everyone familiar with Kaori Yuki’s work (and their sisters too) know this name: the infamous Inorganic Angel whose insanity and obsessive love for his twin sister Alexiel set in motion most of the events in Angel Sanctuary. A most charming psychopath, but also a tragic figure with a tormented background, he is definitely one of my favourite characters from the manga, if not the favourite character. Oh, and I ship the Hell out of Rosiel x Katan.

Rosiel from Kaori Yuki’s Angel Sanctuary.
The story of how a character with the same name ended up in my project is pretty simple: Kaori herself mentioned in the side notes of her manga that she found out there was a Fallen Angel called Rosier in the popular lore. And there he was indeed, mentioned in A Dictionary Of Angels by Gustav Davidson, who cites Sebastien Michaelis’ Admirable History of the Possession and Conversion of a Penitent Woman as the source. His description is pretty specific: he is the former number two of Dominion, resides in Hell and is the Demon Patron of tainted love and seduction. Whoa: so much information about a Demon was not to be overlooked. Besides, as Marina Diamandis says, “L.O.V.E., E.V.O.L. – love is evil”, there needed to be a Demon of Love. I also really love the name – and here we’ve got a side note: the R and L sounds are the same in Japanese, so in thr manga Rosier and Rosiel are phonetically and graphically the same word. It is interesting to note that the official lore says that Fallen Angels often change their name from -el to -er after their Fall, so technically both are viable anyway. I ultimately decided to go with the latter to keep it consistent with others from my series (like Furcifel, Azazel or Mephistophel), but mostly because I was fond of Kaori Yuki’s character and I wanted to pay a tribute to him.
The similarities end here, though: I have such a degree of respect for this character and its importance in the Angel Sanctuary plot that from the very beginning I decided to do a completely different rendition more closely based on the original lore. No electric wires, no flowy perwinkle hair, no insanity – just the Demon of Tainted Love and an Incubus (the female version of the Succubus). And also the Demon in charge of the power of Uranus because I like lame puns.
An early concept draft of Rosiel.
Now, according to the file information, the concept sketch above is dated 19th March 2011: that’s at least just how old the idea for this Demon is. Back then I was discussing it with a fellow Angel Sanctuary’s Rosiel fan and dear friend of mine, with whom we decided to do the shooting: that’s the actual sketch I did on Windows Live Messenger to show him the pose I had in mind. Most of the styling and the actual concept came up that night, including leather trouses and posing bare-chested with red ribbons, which simbolise love and sexual tension – also a nod to Japanese folklore that depicts love as a red thread binding the little fingers of two lovers.
It seemed a rather easy photo to take considering the casting went so smoothly, except the shooting kept being postponed over and over. Because there was no time, because there was no place, because my firend’s hair wasn’t long enough or the colour wasn’t right, because he was busy, because he didn’t feel like doing it, and on and on we went. I even mentioned in my 2013 FAQs on deviantART that the work on the series had slowed down because I needed to pressure a couple of friends into organising the shootings, but 2014 went by with me asking without any sign that the thing would be done and then there came 2015, my most artistically frustrating year to date, in which I was generally little productive.
Now, I tried to write to my friend a few times hoping an Infernal Lord would shake me from my block, but both he and I are difficult people who often need some alone time, which resulted in a general lack of communication all through the year. Either we didn’t go further than pleasentry and he disappeared before I could bring up the subject, or he didn’t reply at all even on unrelated matters, stalling the work completely. I grew more and more frustrated with the situation until, after the Mesmerism debacle, I decided that I was having no more shit from anyone at all so screw him, it was high time for a recast. All things considered I didn’t even bother telling him, but after five years I doubt he’ll notice or care anyway: I did more than a fair share of attempts to shoot with him, if he did care he might as well have brought up the subject himself at least once.
As usual, I came across Edoardo through social media rather than modelling platforms. I had the thought he would fit the role ever since, but he was blonde at the time: that would have made him too similar to Furcifel and clashed a bit with the colour scheme, so I wasn’t really sure and didn’t ask him immediately. Then last month he went brown and I had no more doubts: I wrote to him, he immediately liked the project and the idea, we scheduled a day for the shooting and everything was done in, like, fifteen minutes, fine and dandy. Despite his worrying that he wouldn’t do a good job due to lack of modelling experience, after I styled and directed him he got so much into the character that he immediately managed to get the languid, relaxed pose and the alluring, mischievous expression we needed. At long last, Rosiel was done, he was fabulous and I have absolutely no regrets about the recast.
Not being in The Lesser Key Of Solomon, Rosiel lacks a seal of his own. I chose one version the Seal of Beleth because it has heart-shaped motives in it. Seriously, that’s it. Also, I initially planned to blend it behind one of the red ribbons, but while I was editing I changed my mind because I wanted those hearts to freaking show – that and I loved the challenge of blending it onto the shoulder.
The theme colour, perwinkle, is a direct tribute to Kaori Yuki, as it is the colour of her Rosiel’s hair in most official illustrations. My friend and I had originally agreed to use a PJ Harvey song but what can I say, last year Susanne Sundfør came out with her masterpiece, Ten Love Songs, from which I chose Darlings (after a tough fight with Slowly) to best represent the idea I had for this Demon.

So here we are, twenty-eight down and two to go. Lucifer is going to be the very last work from the series and meanwhile I’m trying to settle things to recast the last of the Seven Satans. The approaching end of the Infernal Lords series honestly scares me, but I already have a new magnum opus in the cards afterwards, so I hope that will push me to complete it. Let’s see how things turn out next month.

Friday, 22 January 2016


Dust my feathers.
I’m shaking on the floor, but I want to fly.
Hoping that it will get better, yeah.
The television teases paradise.

Get up, get up, get up, feather.
Get up, get up, get up, feather.
Get up, get up, get up, feather.
Get up, get up, get up, feather.

Words taste bitter;
Frozen every time I see a pair of eyes.
Momma, can I sleep forever?
Wake me when the birds light up the sky.

Get up, get up, get up, feather.
Get up, get up, get up, feather.
Get up, get up, get up, feather,
Be free.

Now I’m flying and everything feels so free.
Take me higher, take me.
Now I’m flying and with these broken wings
Take me higher, be free.

Dust my feathers.
I’m praying on my knees ‘cause I want to fly.
Daddy, can you change the weather, yeah?
Show me when the raindrops turn to life.

Get up, get up, get up, feather.
Get up, get up, get up, feather.
Get up, get up, get up, feather,
Be free.

Now I’m flying and everything feels so free.
Take me higher, take me.
Now I’m flying and with these broken wings
Take me higher, be free.

[ Feather – Meg Myers ]

I really don’t like discussing it because I don’t want to sound like I’m fishing for pity or attention, but I have depression and anxiety problems. Not as in a hyperbole for feeling blue or worried, but in a serious, therapy-needing way. Not only am I finding it difficult to have social interactions or even doing everyday activities like grocery shopping, cooking or studying, but last year I reached the point when it affected my artistic production as well, which had always been my catharsis and the place I found my strength in. One single, silly incident with a pretentious ass totally threw me off track and froze me on my feet, and no amount of positive feedback I was receiving on actually paid works from commissioners seemed to wipe away the feeling I was a total failure and people were only being condescending with me. It sucks, trust me. Now, I know this is a long, difficult path and it will take much more than a few therapy sessions and a haircut to recover fully, but I’m trying to get myself together and stay as positive as I can. At least, I’m getting back one of the things that bring me most joy and at which I’m decent, namely photography. You have no idea how better I feel after I’ve shot, or while I’m editing the photos, and after I closed the Mesmerism drama for good (the model wrote me to publish one of the photos and I politely told her I have no use for her and she could just fuck off) I’ve started to feel the inspiration flowing back.

This is the context in which I’ve been listening to Meg Myers’ beautiful song, Feather. It’s a sad, sad song, but there’s something hopeful about it which resonates with me. I don’t know if Meg intended for it to be about battling depression, but I see a lot of myself in it. Such lines as “I’m shaking on the floor but I want to fly”, “Hoping that it will get better”, “I’m frozen every time I see a pair of eyes” or “Momma, can I sleep forever?” perfectly describe how I feel many, many times. I’ve grown so attached to this song than there it was, the first image of the series, perfectly pictured in my mind. The more I listened to it, the more every verse spoke to me and gave me images, until I opened the notepad on my computer and wrote down every idea I had. This is how the concept for this series came to be.

As you can probably see, I broke down the song verse by verse and depicted each one with a photo or a composition. Both on deviantART and Facebook I wrote which part applies to each image making a slow progression from lying helpless on the ground to getting up, to letting go of grief and numbness (the black veil) and dancing in the wind. To emphasise the progressive change, I timed each photo to have a slightly different light in it, so we go from mostly blue hues to having some golden light, to a predominance of warmer tones, as if the sun were slowly rising and brightening the scene. The red shirt provides a visual thread that unites the images, as does the white frame, which allowed me to assemble some images as in a magazine.
The necklace I wear was handcrafted a few years ago by my friend Karina Novak especially for me. She often asked me why I never wore it in my photos and I told her I was saving it for something special. Well, that something special has finally come, and given the title and the metaphor in the song it fit perfectly with these photos.

Here is a little side note: before I told the Minus Habens off, she accused me of wasting her precious work as the “art director” of our shooting. Well, darling, let me explain a couple of thing about art direction: it does not mean you just tell me “I want to copy a certain photo” and leave it up to me, it means what I did here. While I shot most of the landscapes and non-portrait details, my portraits were taken by my mother, DamaInNero, under my close direction. I had a very precise idea about what I wanted the photos to look like so not only did I choose the location and the styling, but I told my mom from which angle to shoot, how close to get, on which details to focus, where to stand so the light grazed the scene the way I wanted, what I did and did not want in the background, beside having a definite idea of which poses I needed. She only adjusted the details that were out of my control (such as suggesting me to change the pose a bit so it would look better, wouldn’t make nasty shadows or cover elements in the background) but I didn’t leave it up to her to develop a vague input I gave her. It was a very satisfying experience for both of us and the final result was exactly what I had pictured in my head.

As for me, after spending some awful months at the first and second photos, I think I am currently at photo III with my life. I don’t quite have the strength I need to fly yet, but at least I’m trying to react. I hope I haven’t saddened you (I talked about all of this just to let you understand how personal and significative these images are to me) and I really want to thank each and every one of you, who support my work and give me motivation to keep up the one thing that makes me feel stronger and good with myself. Thank you all, truly.