The Lion Tamer, 2017
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Di Massimo’s portraiture is often characterised by the Surrealism it is able to achieve; in his works scenarios and characters are often incongruously matched so as to challenge their verisimilitude. ‘The Lion Tamer’ is an exercise in voyeurism, providing just as much spectacle for the viewer as an actual visit to the circus. The eyes painted on the side of the cage emphasize the performative quality of the figures’ poses, lithe yet powerful, and, in conjunction with the ‘Open’ sign hanging in the back, invite the audience to gaze unabashedly at the tableau within.
In the painting, hardwood and marble flooring indicate that the encounter is taking place in some sort of lavish location, an unlikely place for a real lion, yet the tail in the foreground alerts the viewer that the figures are not alone behind the bars of the cage. Domesticity as we have conventionally known it is then systematically subverted by the domineering female figure lording over the nude male; she is the ringmaster and he the beast she is to subdue. Both literally and figuratively, it is the woman who wears the pants, though her charge seems more than content to submit to her demands.