Arthur Gillet doesn’t do birthdays. This is the first he has celebrated in years and even then he’s a month late! But here we are with some scorchin’ NSFW shots of eggplants, peaches and yes, even cake. Durrrr. David Montes got behind the camera for Loverboy to film the real naked chef….
Well, Arthur, first up, can we be the first to wish you a Happy Birthday! You love them, right?!
Haha…NO! I was born late July which was tricky because everyone always went away for the summer. I could never find anyone to share my party with.
But to be honest birthdays were always a bit weird for me. It’s all about social validation. OK, it’s one more year but it’s not like you really achieved something. It’s just about you. It’s very egotistical to me, even if I enjoy other’s birthdays.
But, and forgive us if we’re wrong, you seem somewhat of an exhibitionist….
Haha…When I am on show, I am making a statement. I mean it’s a piece of work. It’s always an opportunity to play a character, to sew, to do a make up, to create a set, to make a concept, purely to share some fun. Just because I use my body it doesn’t make it about me. But for my birthday it’s really just about me. If I’d won something, sure! Let’s have a party. But for a birthday? Meh.
So today you made your first birthday cake for yourself.
Yeah, but I used to love baking cakes, I made a lot for events. When I was younger, I was a lot more interested in traditionally female pursuits. I love the character of Mrs Ramsay in Virginia Woolf’s ‘To The Lighthouse.’ She was considered The Angel in the House, always making things nicer for people. She actually reminds me of my grandmother.
What other ‘female pursuits’ were you interested in?
Well I was very camp as a kid. I was obsessed with Sylvanian Families. I was a cute boy. Women loved me, men not so much. Haha…It was so obvious I was going to be gay. I remember playing with Lego when I was five and this figure had a vest on, he was supposed to be a worker, anyway it totally turned me on.
But yeah as a teen, I went through two phases, one was where I wasn’t interested in my look at all, I suppose I was trash back in the days haha. But then I became more androgynous. It was an elegant, androgynous, a Victorian kind of thing. I had very long hair, it was beautiful.
I had some very unusual relationships with straight guys when I looked like a girl. I was with a guy for six years, he was straight, he only slept with girls. I think it was quite brave of him to pursue his feelings of desire. We were living in very small towns and yet he was still able to live with a guy who looked like a girl. I didn’t think about it at the time. With him I felt like I could be myself. It’s weird I know, but someone that masculine made me feel much more feminine. It was very heterosexually normalised. But that is how I felt back then.
I was also doing ballet, sewing, writing, drawing, all the good things a good Georgian girl should do haha. I remember doing ballet one day and we were stretching to elongate our backs. The teacher was walking behind us, saying, ‘I really love long hair because it allows me to help you go….’ and then she suddenly grabbed my long hair and pulled it all the way back to stretch my back even more. I screamed but it was funny somehow. I loved having a bitch of a teacher.
And when did this androgynous period end?
When I was around 23. My body didn’t respond anymore. It was a huge struggle for me. I was afraid to lose my identity and I was going crazy because I felt I wasn’t fitting my body anymore. But really it was impossible to have sexual relationships as I was not fitting a gay mould, so I cut my hair short. Back then in Rennes people were only into masc4masc and with long hair you could just not fuck.
Is there any part of that androgynous Arthur left?
A friend recently told me when I started to change that, ‘You’re are not effeminate, you are feminine.’ Then I thought that maybe what is real about my identity is not my appearance but it’s my sensibility. Something I will never lose and it will always be connected to my childhood. Sometimes I have this very delicate way of moving and, I have to say, I enjoy it all.
Let’s talk about your art.
It’s all about identity on an existential aspect. It questions our relationship to reality. Nowadays it seems harder to tell what is reality. With the exaltation of medias, we deal with reality through hysteria of social networks and saturation of news and entertainment. Spectacle became more important than truth. Of course there’s nothing objective about it but I don’t think that letting down this impossible quest is a good idea. I always preferred naiveté than cynicism. It seems that we came back to the matter of the flesh, especially in the gay culture, with bodybuilding and steroids. For me the relation to reality has to pass by the body (and so eroticism and sexuality), so it’s very important to me, also in an aesthetical way obviously. But I feel in that relation most of gays worship nowadays through this specific kind of bodybuilded model, it is much more a relationship to an image than the body. In a sense that the effect on other people is more important than a personal project you can have and how you feel in this balance between efforts and harvesting. It’s like body is not a garden where you live anymore but a consumerist good that you spoil and you waste. This is true meaning of narcissism, not this stupid idea to shame you to love yourself (there’s nothing bad about it if you worked to be better), but in the moment of choosing between your reflection and yourself, to choose your image.
How much of your art is inspired by your body?
As much as I feel it’s a honest way of study questions related to image, using your own image and you own body. But I sincerely like modelling because I was considered very ugly as a child and bullied for that. I want to keep those pictures for when I am older and think, ‘Actually I had a good life as a younger person, I enjoyed it.’ I just hope I will be smart enough to move on and say, ‘Ok I’ve done that, it was good. I’m happy but now it’s time to do something else.’
Lastly anything you want to add about your shoot for Loverboy?
It’s clear you don’t cook – you have a terrible kitchen.