Kabuki Shunga. “Sagi Musume” or The Heron Maiden is a famous dance performance in Japanese Kabuki theatre. This shunga print is my imagination playing with alternative narrative. Created in January 2017 as a part of an ongoing series inspired by Kabuki plays.
Kabuki Shunga is a match made in heaven. To be honest I am surprised at myself for not seriously pursuing this avenue of erotic narrative earlier. Perhaps it was my 16 years as a tattooer of traditional Japanese designs that kept me from seeing the obvious, limiting my perception and sensitivity. Kabuki theatre has always been closely linked to the erotic aspects of the floating world of Edo period japan, beginning with the dance performances of Izumi no Okuni in the early 1600’s and slowly evolving into later centuries all male ensembles with its female impersonators, Onnagata, and all the possibilities and implications that follows in the wake of Kabuki’s colorfulness, bravado and all together almost surreal dramatic costume.
In Edo and its Yoshiwara red light district, with all the carnal temptations and pleasures such a place presented and fulfilled, sex was at its center and Kabuki evolved in the midst of all this. Actors were sometimes available as prostitutes or escorts as well. Dreams and fantasies arising, pursued and satisfied. No wonder my mind appears feverishly delirious at the prospects of diving headlong into Kabuki’s historically sinful depths.
Kabuki theatres were of course not only inspiration for passion, pleasures and sexual desires, but also the birthplaces of a beautifully developed style of drama and dance performances unique in all its splendor and soulfulness. On my first visit to Japan I had the pleasure of visiting the classic Kabuki-za theatre and was forever charmed by the experience, even to the point of subjecting my children at an early age to watch Kabuki on DVD without any subtitles. To my delight they enjoyed the experience and clearly understood plots and characters without much prior knowledge. In the present, as teenagers, they watch completely different things on YouTube, but I hope that they will eventually stumble into some Kabuki once in a while.
For writings on Kabuki and my erotic art please go here. For more on the way my mind works and why I paint Shunga go here
For a quick guide to what Kabuki can be I hope you enjoy this video:
As for myself, I will now enter the Kabuki theatre in a most serious fashion and most likely never leave. Kabuki shunga will be a main them in my art for many years to come.
The erotic art of Shunga is full of secrets and hidden meanings. I like to play with the imagination of the viewer. It also gives me satisfaction to hide the obvious in plain view. Like in “Sutra” which I created late 2015.
Erotic art can be so many things. Sweaty, lustful, horny or playful. It can be romantic, soulful and sometimes even melancholic. When I begin working on a new piece I rarely have little more than a tingle of anticipation and an eagerness to find out where my imagination will travel. Since an average shunga print takes at least fifty hours to design, this journey takes on many shades of desire as each layer is added to the original idea. There is the matter of my muse and also the sensation of taking a risk in exposing myself to the world. An artwork can end up completely different than first anticipated and this is a highly enjoyable path to travel.
In “Sutra” I play with the idea of physical as well as spiritual intimacy. I let a buddhist monk enter a tattooed woman somewhere in a bamboo grove beneath a large full moon. I know the persons in the scene intimately and experience their pleasurable moment in the Now as I am sketching, designing and painting. In the traditional Japanese erotic art of Shunga, the kiss is almost as rare as the anal penetration of the woman. For all its ingenuity in design Shunga is often surprisingly repetitive and conformist. This usually has very little to do with what is considered morals in the pseudo christian world of the west, but is a result of a completly different view of sex, as it is shaped by totally different cultural standards and ideals.
The cock entering the ass, a secret place where penetration is not considered “normal”, is for me a show of intimacy and trust. Only if both hearts are filled with burning and honest desire can the act be truly pleasurable for them both. It is a matter of invitation and receiving your lover very intimately. Almost like sharing a great secret. It can be a means of domination and surrender but it can also be a purely lustful game.
Neither monk nor woman can be considered automatically holy. What is holy comes from intentions and actions. In “Sutra” my lovers become holy as they melt together and let all ideas of “right” and “wrong” be cast aside and instead focus on what their hearts are whispering among the bamboo leaves rustled by the night wind. The moon lights up the grove and becomes an involuntary viewer of an unusual union of two souls. Sex and lust genitalized and commodified holds nothing to the fire of true intimacy. The heart has to be in it.
P.s For more on why I paint Shunga please go here
Shunga Print “Autumn”. New and re-designed edition of 15 copies in collaboration with Lan’s Gallery in Hong Kong.
Oban size (25,4 x 38 cm)
New Limited Edition of 15 prints.
Created June-August 2013
This erotic print portrays a woman of maturity. To me this is a highly erotic scene and one of my personal favorites. She has a snake tattooed across her thighs in the traditional Japanese way (Irezumi) suggesting self reliance and a strong, calm personality. In the reflection of her mirror she poses without any shame. presenting you with an uncompromising yet relaxed view of her pussy. She tells me her stories with confidence, of knowing her heart’s desires and how she is no others property.
If you want to become close and enter her world you have to reveal your true heart and in doing so be prepared to share intimacy, not only of her bed but also of your true inner self. What you as a viewer give is what you will receive. This is a daunting task perhaps, nevertheless one full of treasure. Not only will you find sublime pleasure but the viewer will also her or him self. Only through undisclosed honesty and deep compassion will you taste her sweetness and experience true passion.
For this print I have chosen a Haiku poem by Masaoka Shiki.
Ki giku shira giku
hito moto wa aka mo
In english we can read these words,
Yellow mums, white mums –
as for me, I crave a red
In Edo period Shunga, the Kiku (chrysanthemum) is often used as a metaphor for the anus as a point of pleasurable penetration and stimulation. Though this flower is more commonly used as a reference to Nanshoku, same sex love in-between men, I have nevertheless chosen to use it in my Shunga print as a reference to anal pleasure in a heterosexual context. In consciously doing so I am in no way trying to label the woman in the Shunga print or any prospective viewer as hetero. Since my erotic work flows from my own personal imagination and erotic fantasies this is simply the way I was thinking at the tie of creating this image. You as a viewer are completely free to attach your own lustful fantasies to any of my works. So much better if you do!
As a victim of this fast spinning, media consuming digital world of today, human sexuality and eroticism has become sadly attached to the physical and the surface. Lust seems to belong to the young and the physically perfected. As if the Intimate is something that can be achieved through perfecting certain sexual skills and using almost theatrical performances mimicking the shallow nonsense presented as pornography on the glowing screens of an increasingly detached generation of human beings. If you search communities like Pinterest using the keyword “erotic” you will consequently be presented with a seemingly endless stream of images showing young women with “perfect” bodies posing for the eyes of men who do not dare to explore their deeper emotions.
Still I don’t want extend blame on individual human beings in this. They are all victims of being exposed to a dangerously streamlined ideal of sexuality and the human body. Furthermore, it is the culture of not questioning the gender structure in our societies and communities that is perhaps the largest single issue regarding this irritating status quo regarding sexuality and its portrayal. In conclusion; if you don’t know your true inner self, how can you claim to know anything at all?
One of the driving forces behind my artistic urge to create Shunga prints and erotica is the idea that I can perhaps change peoples perceptions regarding the sexual, the intimate, the lustful as well as themselves. I hope that I can continue to create art that will support this idea of grasping the heart and the human reality we seem to miss out on so much and in doing so I also hope to create images that are erotic, playful, horny and simply more compassionate pornographic.
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