Why a Senju shunga blog contest? As autumn is slowly covering the Swedish north in rain and burning colors of red, orange and yellow I have decided to host the first ever blog contest on SenjuShunga.com. This is part of my effort to get all of my lovely Instagram followers to spend more time interacting with this website. Here I can share my work without the fear of censorship. I can write in depth about my work and the ideas behind it. I can also listen to what you have to say when you comment on what I create and all of you can enjoy my work in so many better ways than on the tiny screen of your phone. Of course, if you use aforementioned phone to visit me, this will work fine too!
This contest is simple. All you have to do is to comment on this post, leaving your name. I will announce the winner both here and on Instagram on the 30th of September after randomly selecting a name by drawing it out of a bowl in the very classical way these things used to be done before the digital.
So what is in it for the winner?
An original painting!
Watercolor, pencil and gold acrylic paint on paper, A3 size. And it can be yours. Let’s brighten up that dreary autumn rainy day!
So a repetition of the rules. Comment and leave your name. Random winner selected on September 30th and prize shipped worldwide and free. Easy.
In my shunga painting “Ao” (blue) I wanted to touch on the idea of intimacy and closeness as an integral part of my relationship to the erotic and sexual.
The erotic, as in my Shunga paintings, is an endless hall of mirrors, each showing little secrets of what our hearts desires. The most intense feeling of being here and now, of actually existing, is the sensation of being touched and oneself exploring the sensation of touching another human being. Yet this seems to still be charged with the fear of true intimacy in our time and culture. Sexuality is being heavily commodified and our most inner longings often becomes reduced to genital contact where orgasm is the goal and ego leads the way, assuming the shapes of the illusional characters we try or want to become. As for myself, the sensual, erotic and sexual can never be about replacing emotions, inflating a fragile ego or hiding the heart from the suffering that occasionally rears it’s inevitable ugly head as life flashes slowly by. I need and want intimacy, trust and and the bond cultivated between two people in love.
Loving another person, as well as your own Self, is a game full of risk. The imminent and ever present danger of experiencing heartbreak and loss. The fear of opening up and letting the robes fall from your shoulders, exposing the flesh and bone of your weak and fragile self. Still, the rewards of daring to love far exceeds these phantasms of vulnerability and ghosts of imagination. The daring leap, the exposed chest, the defenseless neck….. What is there to lose but nothing at all!
The Shunga painting “Autumn Moon”.
The moon has always held me ransom to melancholy or sadness. Most of the time it’s simply a breath of the past. A memory of some emotion felt before, recorded in the distant past of my historic heart. I ache. Long. I don’t know really for what. Maybe I yearn for time to stop its constant dying and rebirth. Whatever it is that sends me down that path of bittersweetness it always spawns creativity. Nothing makes me want to create beautiful things like the autumn moon.
Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely hate being sad. Especially when in the middle of it. I guess nobody really wants to be sad but it is the one thing we use to define happiness and joy. Without sadness, happiness would slip by like a slick spy in a dark alleyway. We would never know and never look for it.
When painting “Early Spring Moon” I was filled with a humming sound. A choir softly floating on a single note, building harmonies never to be written down on paper for preservation through the ages. This was most private. A gentle conversation through emotions. The young woman in the painting is has obviously passed from this world into another, perhaps quieter and less painful one. It was hard to tell for me since she would not let any sound pass from her lips. Her eyes avoided mine. Yet she felt close. As if right there in my room this very night of painting and drawing in solitary silence.
I desired her. Needed her. I wanted to spend my remaining days on that small hill, beneath this large moon. Sit very close to her and listen to the wind making the autumn grasses slowly dance. She would say nothing and I would need nothing. It was perfection. And she was me. That was the whole thing. I realized that I had painted my own inner portrait and that I was in love with this person I felt the presence of for such a long time now. Sometimes mirrors shows shapes most surprising.
“Aizen Myoo” shunga erotic painting by Senju. A new version of an older painting I created in 2015.
Shunga is here and now. Even though commonly regarded as an artform of days gone by, exploring its spirit and history has provided me with a tool with which to resist the hollowing of heart that seems to be the disease that we as humans suffer the most from. The line separating lust and passion from greed and and consequent suffering is thinner than the razor’s edge. With eyes half closed you easily confuse what is being mercilessly and repeatedly dressed up and presented as “reality” with the real human heart.
Pornography, as it appears to us on the internet and in the constant sexualization and exploration of the female body and of women as objects of mens sexual desires in media and advertising, is not to be confused with “reality” or even “fantasy”. In “pornography” everybody looses out.
Pornography should be snatched away from the traffickers, the oppressors, the power hungry and greedy, the emotionally dumb and blindly devouring industry that re-packages and re-sells the same old ideas, structures and values that enslaves us all. Sexuality, passion, love and lust belongs only to ourselves. By exploring and examining what we discover within ourselves when we look bravely and without fear inside our own hearts, by uncovering falsities and prejudice within us, by nurturing fearlessness of emotions and throwing away all that garbage we have been told is “reality”, then we can create something real for a change.
My Shunga print of Benten Kozo depicts the lead character in the famous Kabuki drama “Aoto Zoshi Hana no Nishikie”. He is an outlaw in late Edo period Tokyo (then called Edo) and in the most famous act of the play he is disguised as a woman in order to stage an elaborate act of fraud in a high class fabric shop. Only when revealing his tattoos does he transform back into a man in the eyes of the other men populating the stage at the moment.
In my erotic portrait of Benten Kozo I have chosen to depict him when pleasuring himself, still in full female attire. I suspect that the blend of women’s clothing, make up and the erect throbbing cock instantly suggests that the scene would be homosexual when viewed through the normative eyes of western culture. But is this really true? What is really going on when you view this art work?
Our gender roles as well as our sexual identities are predominantly decided by the norm of our society at any given moment in history. There is nothing inherently Gay about this image (and I am not saying that it isn’t), yet it comes across as one. I have noticed that when I share an artwork on social media that depicts a cock that is not explicitly entangled in a normative heterosexual encounter most men that usually like or comment positively suddenly vanish from the scene. The comments I receive are usually not very sexually orientated but rather express appreciation for the beauty of a piece, perhaps even the skill with which I have applied my artistic talents. So why does not the very same comments apply to an image of a man masturbating?
I think it has to do with the fear within the male group. To be seen as a lesser man. To be in opposition to the norm. to be “weak” (because strangely enough Gay is almost synonymous with weakness of some sort). Despite all their hoopla, bravado and talk about bravery men are as a group hopelessly afraid for what other men would think of them. Where did we learn all this nonsense? When liking an image on instagram you usually double tap it. Are men imagining that they touch a penis when they touch the image on the screen? Is the conditioning so great?
We as humans in the western hemisphere play an awful lot of weird little games concerning our emotions and sexuality. Lost in abstractions and ideas inherited through the narrow mind of monotheistic religions we set up barriers built of ideas we didn’t even know we had. We are taught a myriad of things as true and then cling on for dear life to all the treasures of stupidity.
When we view erotica and pornography it works as arousal mainly because we imagine ourselves taking part in the act we are viewing. So a heterosexual (another label) male would upon seeing another man having sex with a woman place himself in that role. Why does it not work when viewing a man masturbating? For me it does. Touching and pleasing myself is most pleasurable and I can easily assume this role when viewing it. If you think a cock looks beautiful, does it make you automatically gay? And to be honest, I never ever heard a man say that a pussy was beautiful.
As adults we have to sift through a tremendous pile of rubbish left us by culture and “norm” in order to obtain the few real pearls of reality that are hidden within. A good way of starting to really live and not merely pretend that you do, is to start asking yourself the simple question of “What do I really feel about it?”
For a more in depth view of how my mind works when it comes to erotic art please go here and here.
Here you can view the famous act with Benten Kozo from “Aoto Zoshi Hana no Nishikie”
My Shunga painting “Kikubatake” shows a young woman elaborately tattooed in a sensual fashion. The irezumi (traditional Japanese tattoo) design is based on Kimono patterns.
Shunga and the erotic keeps me warm inside. As the month of april has passed easter the wind is still carrying frost up here in the north of Sweden I am revealing a completely new work. “Kikubatake” is in reality a new version of a painting I did about two years ago titled “Benten Kozo (mitate). As time slowly moves on and ahead and my style becomes closer to what is really in my heart I will attempt recreations of earlier works.
As you live with a painting on a daily basis you really get to know them well, and I have felt that this female character was not really fully developed in her earlier incarnation, so I simple set out about three weeks ago to help her re-incarnate. The more I paint and the more my style develops it has become obvious that I spend more time creating each piece, constantly evaluating and re-evaluating even the most insignificant choices of colors. Giving birth to my art is becoming a far more costly task than I did imagine when I first started with my Shunga art project back in 2011.
The last couple of months have been spent tattooing more than I usually do and energy has been a thing subjected to rigorous rationing. Sometimes there is simply not enough to go around. I hope I will soon acquire the minutes and moments I need for properly getting this blog running smoothly on a weekly basis. I have things to say, questions to ask and stories to re-tell.