ARTISTS of ‘O’ #8: Lynn Paula Russell

 

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Alea iacta est (The die is cast)

For Lynn Paula Russell (you may know her as Paula Meadows, spanking-movie star and artist extraordinaire) the erotic novel ‘Story of O’ marked the beginning of a journey. It was her epiphany. The starting point for her very own sexual odyssey. “The woman I am now is not the one I used to be.”

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Russell was born Lynn Paula Smith in June 1949 in Whitstable, Kent, England. As one of three sisters growing up in middle-class propriety Russell’s childhood and youth proved to be a sheltered life. “I was very shy,” she states. Through her twenties Russell tried constantly, but without lasting success, to suppress her sexual needs.

Around 1970 she read the erotic novel The Story of O by Pauline Réage. She had never experienced corporal punishment either in the family or at school, but to her surprise the scenarios of female subordination described in the novel thrilled her with excitement, even though she did not believe she wanted to experience this kind of sexuality herself. However, the die was cast.

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It was only a few years later, after encountering practicing BDSM enthusiasts, that she changed her mind. By then Russell had turned to painting and illustration, discouraged from an acting career. Deciding to suppress her sexual desires no longer, and to actively fight her sexual inhibitions Russell “took the plunge”. Around 1980 she began posing for nude photos in magazines. Sex videos followed.

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Russell recalled, ‘I took the plunge, enjoyed it immensely, and to my utter astonishment ‘Paula Meadows’ was born. This new incarnation of me didn’t seem to resemble the earlier, rather timid version at all. Adventurous and insatiable, she launched herself into a new career; exhibiting herself without any shame in glossy magazines, making more films and creating new paintings out of the torrent of erotic imagery that was unleashed. I had already discovered my interest in the riding crop, the strap and the martinet, but now I found that I was not alone in my interest.’

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In 1982 Paula started working for the British magazine Janus, first as a model, then as an illustrator. Up until 1986 she created numerous fetish illustrations for Janus and continued to appear as a model. From 1989 to 1992 she worked for Fessée, another spanking magazine. In 1994 Janus launched a sister publication, Februs. Edited by Russell, it lent a feminine slant to the world of punitive and erotic corporal chastisement. Her own submissive needs were indeed reflected throughout its pages, making the magazine uniquely hers. Paula Meadows’ wonderfully revealing, drama-charged illustrations of yielding females became classics of the genre.

In 1990 Russell turned to drawing erotic comics. The British comic artist Erich (Robin Ray) von Götha made contact with a publisher in Paris, for whom she developed a story, set in the 1920s, with the help of her husband called Sophisticated Ladies. This was followed by Vacances d’été (Summer Holidays) and the graphic novels Sabina and Sabina 2.

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When Februs ceased publication in 2002, Russell decided to retreat from the spanking scene both in private life and as an artist. Since then she has largely withdrawn from illustration in favour of painting.

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For followers of the Zodiac those born under Cancer will be seen as sensitive, sympathetic, affectionate, creative and imaginative. Having met Lynn Paula Russell I can vouch for all of these aspects of her lovely personality. Her recollections of experiencing many aspects of ‘O’ are pertinent here and I’m fond of Russell’s recollections of an evening of the erotic at the heart of Paris at a time when she had launched herself into a series of detailed drawings based on all her most intimate experiences:9f6801b3be8f2ab31248bd17f4034c68

“There was an evening that combined all my favourite elements …”

“… no gallery in London would have taken a chance on my work. It really made a difference to me when my personal and highly explicit drawings appeared on the walls of the gallery ‘Les Larmes d’Eros’.
Russell Story of O 001The subject of sex had at last come out of it’s very cramped cupboard and could now be viewed properly like any other aspect of human behaviour. On the opening night of my show I was surrounded by an extraordinary assortment of people, some in fetish wear, some smart and glamorous. There were intellectuals, a psychologist, writers and other artists. I chatted to a petite lady in her sixties, her hair swept back severely off her face, who told me of her exploits as a dominatrix. This was obviously one of her great pleasures in life. To my delight, I also found out that she was quite a famous writer too. She had written a strange and darkly erotic book called ‘L’Image’. I knew it well and had assumed that the pseudonym Jean de Berg meant that the author must be a man. For a moment I felt a wave of excitement, as if I had been an eleven year old boy meeting their favourite football star! Just to think: this lady had probably actually KNOWN Pauline Reage!

 

I had found the very fount of my original fantasy, but at the same time I began to realize that what I had with my own friends now was every bit as fascinating and, who knows, maybe we had gone further than the originator.Russell Story of O

As if to confirm this point, the gallery door opened and in it’s portals was framed the impressive from of my own Master, unexpectedly arrived from London. His vast figure glided in to greet me and from then on the evening became a dream sequence, extraordinary people, familiar and unfamiliar swirling around me.

A group of us eventually left the gallery and found ourselves in a most unusual apartment, it’s owner’s taste in art reflecting a distinct leaning towards the bizarre, it’s furniture and fittings sparse but very useful if tying up a slave happened to be your preference, and it’s bookcase bulging with the literary outpourings of the Marquis de Sade! Just the sort of setting to make you feel that you are not back in your own home in London! I was swiftly squeezed into my leather costume by my Master…”

“To be ravaged, exploited, and totally possessed can be an act of consequence”

Russell Story of O 009“I was propelled through the cluster of people-shapes, past other slaves with a master or mistress to a sturdy table where there was a concentration of light. My Master helped me up and positioned me on all fours, them he proceeded to warm me up using a soft leather martinet. This is where I began to soar. I instantly felt the rapport between us. We were like a couple of dancers; positions and implements changed with barely a word needed and breathing began to accelerate as my master moved around me, using the whip with his customary blend of gentleness and severity. One moment it caressed me as if I were fragile glass, the next it cut across my rump and I reared like an excited pony!… there is a drawing called ‘The Party’ which shows the excitement of performing in front of an audience in this way. I am such an exhibitionist!”

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“I was commissioned by a private patron to illustrate The Story of O.” The perfect commission. Russell was delighted. The resulting ‘book plates’ have a sensitivity and softness despite the inherent violence. They are uniquely hers, and include one of my own favourite passages from the book, ‘O’ behind the large window past which the Roissy gardener clears fallen leaves in the early hours of the morning.

“What lifts this fascinating book above mere perversity” states Lynn Paula Russell, “is its movement toward the transcendence of the self through a gift of the self… to give body, to allow it to be ravaged, exploited, and totally possessed can be an act of consequence, if it is done with love for the sake of love.”

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Images © the artist /o/ Text © Stefan Prince

 

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Sir Stephen’s Melancholic “China Doll”

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Oddness abounds in Shūji Terayama’s Les Fruits de la Passion (1981), sometimes called ‘The Story of O-Pt.2’ – “Like Magritte let loose in Wonderland,” wrote Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times. The result perhaps, one blogger has imagined, of “Oshima & Borowczyk working together after their notorious years at Argo Films and still there”.

The film promotes itself as based on the novel Retour à Roissy by Pauline Réage, the so-called ‘sequel’ to Story of O, but we find Fruits of Passion has very little to do with Réage.

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In an interview, Andre Heinrich reveals Philippe d’Argila, son of Dominique Aury (Pauline Réage) and one of the producers on Borowczyk’s Blanche, wished to cash in on the success of Just Jaeckin’s Story of O (1974) by producing a sequel based upon his mother’s Retour a’ Roissy for which she retained the rights. As Associate Producer on Fruits of Passion one can only assume d’Argila had to make-do with this 1981 French-Japanese co-production (Shanghai Ijin Shōkan – “China Doll”) which claims to be the sequel to Story of O but is as far from Return to the Château as one can imagine.

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The film’s oddness, however, and the casting of Klaus Kinski compensates somewhat for the film’s shortcomings. It comes across as an epic poem to melancholy. The film rambles through a series of eccentric set pieces interspersed with moments of surreality, with a story setting the sadness of brothel life against a slim plot involving Sir Stephen financing a Coolie uprising! How fascinating a concept.

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The lead characters of Histoire d’O and Retour à Roissy, Sir Stephen and O, are placed in the southern China of the 1920s where Sir Stephen owns a casino located in the slums of Shanghai. Sir Stephen ( Klaus Kinski) places O (Isabelle Illiers) in a Chinese brothel for “training” and O is then subjected to a variety of humiliating experiences to prove her unconditional obedience. Meanwhile Sir Stephen finds a new toy in the character of Nathalie (Arielle Dombasle).

A sub-plot concerns a coolie rebellion due to the resentment towards Europeans by the local population and a young man desperate to afford O’s favours at the brothel. O falls in love with the poor young man who joins the revolutionaries, hoping to get some money in order to come to her. Everything ends somewhat badly and melancholia prevails.

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Jasper Sharp in his Behind the Pink Curtain calls Fruits of Passion “minor Terayama” whose “charms are mainly cosmetic”; the costuming, sets (the work of Hiroshi Yamashita) and cinematography (Tatsuo Suzuki). He has a point. One is apt to come away from the film with a clear sense of its quirkiness, moments of beauty and designer-melancholy. It is without doubt a surreal, & at moments, erotic work of art. It failsFruits-of-Passion38 ultimately, however, to deliver what is intended  and this is a great shame. Few reviewers give it its due. Many fall over themselves to deride the film. One purchaser explains, “It is made with a high sense for colours, great images, perfectionism in detail and a beauty in its pictures that is found rarely in newer movies in the western world. Maybe this is one reason why it may bore some people with a more speedy expectation for films then it is shown in this slowly developing story.”

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Director Shūji Terayama(1935 – 1983) was an avant-garde Japanese poet, dramatist, writer, film director, and photographer. Critics view him as one of the most productive and provocative creative artists to come out of Japan. His art lives on with annual theatre events, and every 10 years a full summer festival features his life and works.

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© Stefan Prince