Porn to oil pastel: Marianne Tricot’s erotic postcards show the beauty of sex (NSFW)

The Parisian illustrator spends her working life illustrating for science institutions and her personal time creating steamy small-scale collages.

6 December 2023

Sex: one of the most taboo subjects, and yet one of the most universal acts. It’s not often spoken about in public (or when it is, it’s in hushed tones) and mention of it can often induce more than one raised eyebrow. But for the illustrator and artist Marianne Tricot, this doesn’t sit quite right. With how present sex can be in everyday life, she believes it should be viewed and discussed as such – an everyday act. Her Images d’Amour (Images of Love) series of steamy collage postcards is looking to portray exactly this: both the normality and the beauty of sex.

After specialising in scientific illustration at Paris’ École Estienne, Marianne primarily spends her working life collaborating with researchers, scientific institutions and museums “visually translating complex ideas”. Though the stuffy world of scientific academia might not be deemed one of the sexiest spaces, Marianne believes such work aids her personal projects, giving her the ability to look at complex subjects and things deemed “concrete”, adding her own spin, proposing other narratives, even injecting a little poetry. What’s more, pragmatically such work allows her to earn a living, while also spending hours developing her practice. Then, in her personal time, “I can continue to draw the world as I see it, as I’d like it to be: slower, gentler and, above all, happier,” she says.

GalleryMarianne Tricot: Images d’Amour (Copyright © Marianne Tricot, 2023)

The initial idea for Images d’Amour was sparked by an unsuspecting object. While at a flea market, Marianne came across some tiny old frames, which once contained old family photos. “I liked their ramshackle appearance and wanted to divert them from their original function, making them contain something offbeat, piquant and a little cruder than the frozen portraits of classic family photos,” she says. So, instead of the “uptight” and austere characters often found in old photos, Marianne wanted to fill them with figures letting loose, “as close as possible to their animality”. Though in an effort not to “impose” anything on her audience, Marianne kept the pieces on a small scale, all between 6cm and 12cm.

As a visual guide for the content of her collages, Marianne used screenshots from pornographic videos, and was purposeful in sourcing material that showed a wide range of bodies, acts, communities and forms of sexuality, as a means to ensure that “everyone feels represented”. She then cut the bodies and various other bits of scenery – mattresses, quilts, showers and baths – out of paper, followed by oil pastels. With sweeping colours and a slight abstraction, Marianne takes images that some might see as “crude” and turns them into something “sensitive”, creating a space that she says “imagination and fantasy come into play”. The calming blues and greens of interiors are paired with touches of redness in the bodies to emulate the naked body, the fast-paced application of the pastel mimicking the wildness of the moment. “That’s what I love most about this work,” she says. “How, with a few shapes and colours, you can piece together a scene like a jigsaw puzzle and guess at its meaning.”

Responses to Images d’Amour have been varied, a mix of admiration, amusement and (as expected) some shock and embarrassment. Marianne is still surprised by the shock, with how much sexualised imagery invades our daily lives through the likes of advertising and pornography. Rather than simply reproducing sexual imagery, Marianne wants her work to spark conversation around the presence of sex in our lives, and why it remains such an illicit subject. Although, on another level, Marianne simply hopes to instigate a little curiosity and daydreaming through her “little windows of pleasure and joy”.

GalleryMarianne Tricot: Images d’Amour (Copyright © Marianne Tricot, 2023)

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Marianne Tricot: Images d’Amour (Copyright © Marianne Tricot, 2023)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English Literature and History, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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