Shunga and beauty.

Senju (Matti Sandberg) was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1968.

He is an artist focusing on the erotic and the sensual. The media used is blend of techniques such as painting, photography, sculpture, design, tattooing and writing. In exploring what is pure emotion and sensation every avenue should be explored using any means necessary. In art there can be no Holy Cow. Just a never ending journey of creation straight from the Human Heart.

He lives and works together with his wife Anna Sandberg, who is also an artist, in Umeå, Sweden.

Childhood

Senju grew up as a sensitive child. Not shy or fragile but instead alert and analyzing towards his surroundings and the intricate emotional game played out by the people surrounding him. He was at an early age a romantic, philosophical and intellectual, standing a bit to the side of the human world, pondering its patterns of behavior and what made people act and do as they did in all situations.

Most of all he longed for closeness and sharing. For the wordless communication of intimate souls. Always sensing that this was a reality perhaps impossible to enter together with most human beings he turned to books, dreams and the creative process, always reading and drawing. Being different and not very prone to aggressive or physical outlets he easily became a target for manipulative people and through most of school he was bullied and misunderstood.

Punk

As a young teenager he was present when Punk exploded onto the cultural and popular scene and he instantly fell in love with the movement’s lack of respect for rules, its creativity and most of all the way Punk suddenly destroyed the invisible barrier that stood between a life according to the contemporary morals of society and living according to ones own hearts desires. Finally there was an opening! A gateway that if passed through brought self empowerment and freedom to create with only one self as the judge of possible and impossible. Senju started playing in Punk bands at the age of 13 and did so for many years to come. He learned by himself to play various instruments, writing lyrics and songs and expressing himself. He also learned that the only philosophy needed was “Do It!”

After entering his twenties he worked as a Kindergarten teacher and freelance music journalist all the while continuing to explore the creation of music and became slowly more skilled at sharing his thoughts and inner self in words. One problem often re-ocurring was his inability to find those persons with whom he could find intimacy of the soul. Failed love affairs and relationships started to seem part of everyday reality. He had difficulties choosing the right heart to connect with and this was something that would continue to plague him until his early forties. He would later discover that defining moments during his early childhood had created in him a severe case of fear of abandonment an that he subconsciously would always be attracted to partners that strongly signalled that they would leave him. A state of emotional affairs that was to further define his path of creativity and heart for many years still to come.

Tattooing

Somewhere along his musical path he was introduced to tattooing through a friend that had a makeshift tattoo machine. Not ever before even remotely interested in tattoos Senju decided to let his friend tattoo him on a 1988 sunday afternoon in a basement apartment room. This was the first true connection with the real and sensual world that he had been searching for during his first 20 years. At last there was a glimpse of that ephemeral heart. Something wordless and soul transforming. He became immediately obsessed with the idea of becoming a tattooer. After all, he had the ability to draw and design, and tattooing itself was a purely technical pursuit. He wanted to give this new experience to everyone that wanted it. It was something raw and emotional beyond preconcieved ideas about reality that was connected with the insertion of pigment into an other human beings skin. A physicality and something that was real and untainted. At last!

In 1991 he began his first tattoo apprenticeship. It was a doomed affair under an alcoholic german street thug turned tattooer but nevertheless proved enough to propel him on his way towards a career as a tattooer. After a year and a half he quit the apprenticeship. In 1994 he started working in another tattoo studio and now things became serious enough for him. Between 1994 and 1997 he was busy tattooing as many clients as possible in order to learn and gain a reputation as a tattooer. He also started traveling and tattooing. During these years he worked shorter or longer amounts of time in Gran Canaria, Holland, Sweden and the US. The traveling gave him a rapidly growing confidence and also established him as a tattooer internationally. Still he felt unsatisfied. During these formative years that initial feeling of the ephemeral and fantastic had started to fade. He was feeling lost again. Merely tattooing what the clients requested, albeit with his own distinctive touch, did not satisfy his search for the innermost corner of the human soul. Nor did is seem like true reality to him.

He turned to traditional western tattooing in order to breathe more heart into the works he produced. The genre’s use of simple but heartfelt design, its use of words to define ones emotions and showing them to others attracted him. He was sick of emotions being neglected and acted in the ever faster racing technological world that the late 1990’s was shaping up to be. He was trying to find simplicity and something definite to cling to.

Zen

It was during this time that he met his first wife, but since he still was triggered by his yet undiscovered fear of abandonment issues, the marriage proved to be emotional torture and this triggered in him increasing anxiety and stress. He worked too hard, both in tattooing and within his heart, and after some time he started felling exhausted and prone to panic reactions. He became desperate in his attempts to create a life that could work for him. He started cognitive behavioral therapy, which helped deal with some issues but never addressed his core problems. He also started to search for a physical outlet and decided surprisingly to try Kendo – the art of Japanese fencing. This decision was to shape his life in unsuspected and surprising ways from that day onwards.

Through Kendo he came into contact within Zen buddhism. After a five day crash course in monastery life at a Zen monastery in Sweden, he began a path of self realization that still continues to this day. Zen provided a direct and powerful way to break through barriers he never thought even existed. A process began within him. Like the slow polishing of a rock at the edge of water, ever sanding away until a smooth surface appears, free of sharpness and craggy corners. It also introduced Senju to Japanese culture. From that moment he has been slowly returning to his true inner self.

Japan, Irezumi and Photography

In 2000 Senju made a giant leap. He decided to wholeheartedly devote his tattooing efforts towards the traditional Japanese tattoo tradition, Irezumi. Like with everything he had ever undertaken creatively in his past he absorbed everything Japanese culture could give him. It was an intense period in time. His dysfunctional marriage was still a source of anxiety and in 2001 his first son was born. Emotional closeness was absent from the relationship he was in and he sought comfort and solace in exploring this new culture he had recently discovered and opened up to. For the first time in his life he could briefly understand the workings of the human heart. Zen had provided a kaleidoscope through which he could now gaze upon the surrounding world. His understanding of how he himself functioned grew increasingly stronger and he also developed a sharper instinct regarding his emotions and there was now a visual  context where he could express these new insights into his own mind. Many things still eluded him but things were finally traveling in the right direction.

He now gained a deep knowledge concerning Japanese art, history, culture and religion and started to move comfortably in his new creative landscape. For the first time there was a clear image of how he would like to express himself and what aspects of the human heart he felt basically true and wanted to explore. Directness, compassion and being alive in the Now was slowly becoming a part of everyday life. There was still a long way to go, this he had no doubt about, but things and truths were now on the tip of his tongue.

 

 

 

 

 

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