SCOTT RAMSAY KYLE.
Meet the artist giving new life to porn of the past with his iconic embroidery techniques.
If you were a gay man growing up in the 70s and 80s, you probably had a porn collection. Regardless of how big or small it was, it’s likely you had a couple of issues of Zipper or BUTT stashed away under your bed, far from the prying eyes of your inquisitive parents. At least this was the case for Scottish-born designer Scott Ramsay Kyle, who amassed his porn collection by either stealing them from newsagents or buying them over the course of his youth. These days, he’s utilising them for art purposes, uniting them with his embroidery technique to either omit or emphasise elements of the masculine form, whether it’s a giant phallus or the toned torso of a 70s porn star.
Originally a fashion designer himself, he’s most recently caught the eye of Delhi-born designer, Ashish, who has tapped him for an upcoming t-shirt collab as part of his Taint collection. I meet the artist at his East London studio, where the walls are laced with visual references of giant cocks and gay porn, to talk the evolution of his signature stitch work.
You sew onto vintage porn. Tell me how this project came about. This project came about after seeing the needle as a penis. I saw the link of penetration, in this case penetrating into things like paper or textures or fabrics. I was thinking that the action of masturbation was like stitch, a similar kind of up and down, repetitive action, with the back contorted, it feels good because you’re making progress and then when you finish the money shot is all over the page, beautiful splashes of embroidery, and then you want to do it again!
How do people react to your work? I think people were quite shocked a few years ago but they see it now as sort of a beautiful personal thing, so it’s
maybe not as risqué. I know there’s a big massive cock embellished but because it’s got technique to it and it’s got a sense of colour and composition, it’s even more desirable.
Do you think there’s still kind of a stigma around sexuality and sex? Well, I do strule with censorship on Instagram, however more broadly speaking, I think there’s a different culture that’s taken over now, like the Kim Kardashian celebrity, contouring, and perfect pouty selfie. I think that’s so much more controversial than the porn industry today because although it is pretty depressing seeing porn stars and imagining the trouble that they might have gotten into, it’s also quite depressing that 17 year old girls are casually having facelifts, implants and Botox, I think that’s equally a modern day problem now, it’s dangerous.
Is it complex to work on paper? I’ve always worked on paper, even pre-gay visuals vibe, but I think my style of stitch suits a stronger base like a thick card. There is a level of private complexity which isn’t rarely noticed, for example I like going between hard and soft papers weights that matches the “hardness” of its content. Although the idea of sewing is about being poised and calm and processing, I think my movement of stitch work is created with aressive tension, but there’s a sort of flow of direction and painterly style to it.
Where do your source your porn imagery from? The gay porn stuff is from a big selection of my own magazines that I had when I was a kid, I frequently use pornstars who I’ve had a sort of pseudo-romance with (one sided!). I think I would have nicked a couple from the newsagents or bought some over the years. It’s really exciting to buy that when you’re like 15 and not quite out
in Glasgow and then when I moved to London, I had this big bag that I didn’t want to leave in my dad’s house so it’s kind of followed me around London, but I’ve never really looked at them as they were outdated and now with an active sex life the 3D reality is more stimulating than the 2D printed matter.
Why do you choose to use dated pornography rather than modern day? I think the quality of the non-digital film based visual is richer, it has a haptic grainy quality and the colours seem more infused with nostalgia. I guess it looks more romanticised. And what are the key differences that you see in this old fashioned porn compared to today? I don’t know because I don’t really look at porn I mean on occasion I watch porn on-screen, but I wouldn’t really buy a porn magazine. I guess the clothes and fashion the actors wear is a funny comparison from ‘then and now,’ for example you won’t find so many brown polyester flaired suits in todays clusterfuckery. In-fact that is maybe a new project, thanks for that!
I guess there’s not really a market for it anymore! I think it’s because people are so used to exposing themselves now, you can jump on any gay app and they will literally bombard you with perfect bodies, odd shaped bodies, funny proportions, streaming cocks, clickable arses, so I think the next generation coming up are so much more resistant to it and they’re not shocked by it and they’re more open I guess.
Do you think there’s a fine line between your work being art and porn? I think it’s more art than porn, I don’t think you can see it as porn. Porn is a stimulus, the moment it came from but then it’s taken through the process of my subjective hand, which I make into a beautiful narrative and elevated thing. I’m not really a champion of the porn industry, but I’d like to think of myself as a champion of hand embroidery and collage. I think it’s that I’m contradicting things; there is craft and technique which could be seen as quite mumsy. I don’t like that gendered word but it could be seen as that, but then it’s rammed together with a huge cock and balls. It’s this moment in-between that I like people questioning. It’s for them to decide if they think it’s porny and bad taste or if they are excited and see it as romantic.
Does your stitching relate to your design work? Most of my fashion projects, they have been textile-led, and this kind of certain stitch / applique
technique has always followed through within my creative output. I think my work has a linear form and each piece I make is a continuation of the work. When I arrange different media on the page, I’m looking for something which clicks, which is related to problem solving in design. I love the works of Sol LeWitt for example; process driven except in my case it is done by my own hand.
Which do you enjoy more? I think definitely working 2D is more fun, I’m a maker so I like working with my hands, I’m happy to make anything really as long as I can be busy with hands. I think the idea of stitching; it kind of brings your mental health and your psyche to calm, it definitely has a meditative quality. You’re about to collaborate with the designer Ashish on his Taint t-shirt collection. How did that come about? Ashish bought some of my collage work a couple of years ago for his personal art collection, he’s done that a couple of times. Then we became friends!
How do you envisage your collaboration will look? We’ve actually already finished the collection. They’re not properly launched as yet but very soon. There’s long sleeve and short sleeve and they’re all photo-collage, so my collage work and then with different inserts, flesh, limbs, text, florals, some jewels, they are full scale and decorative, they look great.
Finally, tell me about your zines. I’ve made two zines recently, partly to add different elements in my online shop. HOMMEX, which is like a satirical fashion body zine. It’s basically like taking the most ridiculous pornography and then building layers of garments and details on to the page and then describing it in a really boring way. So there’s a guy with his dick out and socks on which is like raunchy, but then it has really boring in-depth descriptions of socks and details so it’s meant to be a piss take. And then I’ve got a second zine which is a collaboration between two artists Melanie Coles and Michael Crowe called OBSESSIONS which we launched at ASP3, the Artist Self-Publishing Fair at ICA in summer. Issue 2 comes out before Christmas and will be available to buy at the ICA bookshop and then consequently in New York. Both zines and my artwork are also available to buy on my website shop.