A fair number of artists, photographers and writers have taken Story of O as their inspiration. The result is a fascinatingly disparate range of imaginings, sometimes privately commissioned for the eyes of their client only. This, if I am not mistaken, is the case with artist/illustrator Musubu Nakai and his illustrations for Histoire d’O.
Musubu in the school playground and Musubu grown up
Catching a glimpse of Musubu in his signature pork-pie hat, hiding beyond a mirror’s reflection, or of his right foot (or simply his bed), one could be forgiven for believing Musubu Nakai to be something of a mystery man. But dig a little deeper across the internet and you will find numerous candid photos of the artist with friends, colleagues, and at exhibitions, or simply going about his business with youthful confidence and deserved self assurance.
I say deserved as Musubu is clearly a master of his chosen path and a fascinatingly fastidious talent. He has tapped into his homeland’s propensity for little-girl culture and identified himself completely with the subject matter of the old masters painters, poets and photographers the world over, that of the adolescent female as a supreme and sacred form of Beauty. The child-woman who inhabits a Wonderland limbo between childhood and adulthood, one whose sexuality hovers about innocence as fragile as a butterfly in first flight. And here there are butterflies and moths aplenty. Musubu alighting like a collector of butterflies, upon the inspirational examples of Balthus, Bellmer, Tenniel and perhaps Frau Wülfing and her young melancholic angels. One is impelled to enquire, as did Gilles Néret about Balthus’s young girls, “Are they real? Or are they puppets, dolls and automata?”
Other inspirations are wide ranging, from The Cure, David Bowie and Kate Bush, to Joy Division and Steve Reich. From Victorian puppets and dolls, photographs by Irina Ionesco, pleated skirts, Anime, Manga, and tattoos, to Twin Peaks, and Blade Runner.And it is not surprising that Musubu alights upon Histoire d’O with, in its closing pages, the adolescent hungry-for-adventures Natalie: “wonderstruck, smitten with desire and curiosity.”
Musubu effortlessly transforms Dominique (Pauline Réage) Aury’s childhood phantasms into the world he makes his own. The novel’s text illustrated, and carefully bound, stitched together in hand made bindings. O’s world become fairytale, whip-marks and moths. The whole secretive and discreet.
Of himself Musubu Nikai has written somewhat disparagingly;
“I became an artist in 2008. In reality, I do not want to do anything. Until now, like those that catch fish in the ocean to live, I scrounged for trash in the garbage area and sold it for money. But because laws changed I was forced out of the garbage area. Then I had no choice but to become an artist. Being an artist is like selling trash… pick up some good garbage and sell it to those who want it… It’s the same exact process. As an artist, my pleasure is to find beauty.”
“Although it is very enjoyable, finding beauty does not have much value. My goal in life is to die. Until that moment of my death, I have no choice but to live and kill time. I work hard and enjoy things that give me pleasure. The most pleasurable things are sex and stroking my cat’s head. That is why my drawings are composed of these things”
PHOTOS: Musubu forever in the mirror/ in signature hat/ with sculpture by Bellmer/
finishing a large drawing/ “my right foot”/ Musubu’s unmade bed
Perhaps Musubu prefers to remain on the far side of the looking glass after all, slightly obscured, sometimes out of focus. He perhaps would insist to reiterate the demands made in 1967 by Balthus in a letter to the Tate Gallery in London, “No biographical details. Begin: Balthus is a painter of whom nothing is known. Now let us look at the pictures.”
All images © Musubu Nakai