The Shunga book “Kagami” will contain the main body of Sonja’s erotic works between 2013-2017.
The Shunga book “KAGAMI” will be published by OKAASAN BOOKS, Umeå, Sweden during the first half of February 2018.
Finally production work on my “KAGAMI” shunga book has begun, and I am overjoyed to see it come together. True to my heritage and my creative roots I am doing most of the design work myself. I have previously designed 9 books and it is something that I truly enjoy doing. To be able to create all these paintings and then to also have full creative control of what comes next is very, very rewarding. I have worked like that since I was a teenager playing in punk bands. There were usually something that needed to be done and nobody around that could do, so I took upon myself to solve it.
Over the years I have taught myself so many things. To write, photograph, tattoo, paint, graphic design, book design, make websites, communication, to print my own work. Everything that needed to be done was solved one way or the other and my knowledge accumulated. I like self sufficiency I guess.
At the end of december I reach the deadline for the material and the design work for this shunga book. After that comes a christmas of anxiously awaiting the arrival of the physical book itself. That is a moment of anticipation and creative glory. I have worked with the same printers since my first book project and our relationship is one of trust and creativity. So far they have never turned down any idea I had, telling me it is wrong or not possibly. That is a relationship built over a long period of time but also based on the printing company’s own creative drive to make books beyond the ordinary.
My intention and idea with contemporary shunga was simply to reclaim sex. To make it real again. What if I should create my own pornography? Something completely different and with my soul and heart in it? So in the last month of 2012 I started to sketch on the first pieces and I haven’t stopped since. After I started to share my works with the public and I realized through their feedback that I could actually make arousing images that were artistic and at the same time authentically human I started to explore what taboos could be broken or needed to be, which things needed to be discussed and also, importantly, what could be sexually arousing to view.
Because really good erotic art should be able to freely move, to show or hide, to hint or undress. Real sex is a hell of a lot more that a big cock entering a vagina. Genitalia is only part of it. Sometimes. There is also touch, trust, tenderness, respect, intimacy and passion. You don’t necessarily have to be in romantic love to have real sex. But the heart has to be in it. I honestly believe that it should never be about power, revenge, humiliation, and all those things human beings mistakenly substitutes for the real thing in order to feel better about themselves.
I want to make horny, beautiful and sensual works of art. Simple as that. Images that makes people feel good about themselves, others and about life. I hope that this collection of paintings, photos and words that will assume the shape of a book will be able to convey some of that. The poetry of having emotions and sensations, both physical and spiritually phycological. Also I hope it can provide some satisfyingly lustful moments for the viewer and reader.
144 pages, 21 x 29,7 cm, thread bound, very high quality soft cover printed on 150 g lynx rough paper for the best result.
Featuring 59 paintings spanning Senju’s work between 2013-2017.
Each painting is accompanied by an explanatory full page text.
Limited edition of 1000 numbered copies.
The first 200 copies are signed by the artist and contains 3 specially selected A4 size prints representing his range of work
Designed by the artist and OKAASAN BOOKS
Printed by Göteborgstryckeriet, Sweden.
Release date: First week in Febraury 2018.
Pre-order the “KAGAMI” book here
My painting “The Peony Lantern” (Botan Doro) depicts the ghost of Otsuyu in an erotic midnight embrace with her living lover Shinzaburo.
The Peony Lantern (Botan Doro) is one of my erotic Shunga paintings for October, which centers around the classic ghost stories of Japan. Turning them into erotic works of art is at the same time both easy and difficult. Easy because I often equate the erotic with romantic love (of which the melancholy kind often appears in ghost stories) and hard because that very same romanticism and melancholy prevents me from creating overly explicit tableaus. Death is no laughing matter and the driving force behind intimacy between the departed and the living comes out best when it derives its strength from a longing for remaining, for closeness or the idea that love is what often makes us feel alive. It is perhaps love that makes us in a strange and unexpected way immortal?
The story of “Botan Doro” (the Peony Lantern) is one of my favorite ghost stories. It is terrifying yet sensitive and sweet. The hopelessness of impossible romance and how this is overcome defiance of laws of the universe and finally the consequences for having yourselves assumed the position of gods. The two lovers ultimately pays a costly price for their transgressions but at the same time there is something so very human about their longing for each other.
Here is a brief summary of the Kabuki play based on the story;
“A young student named Shinzaburo falls in love with a beautiful woman named Otsuyu, the daughter of his father’s best friend. They meet secretly, and promise to be married. But Saburo falls ill, and is unable to see Otsuyu for a long time.
Later, when Saburo recovers and goes to see his love, he is told that Otsuyu has died. He prays for her spirit during the Obon festival, and is surprised to hear the approaching footsteps of two women. When he sees them, they look remarkably like Otsuyu and her maid. It is revealed that her aunt, who opposed the marriage, spread the rumor that Otsuyu had died and told Otsuyu in turn that Saburo had died.
The two lovers, reunited, begin their relationship again in secret. Each night Otsuyu, accompanied by her maid who carries a peony lantern, spends the night with Saburo.
This continues blissfully until one night a servant peeks through a hole in the wall in Saburo’s bedroom, and sees him having sex with a decaying skeleton, while another skeleton sits in the doorway holding a peony lantern. He reports this to the local Buddhist priest, who locates the graves of Otsuyu and her maid. Taking Saburo there, he convinces him of the truth, and agrees to help Saburo guard his house against the spirits. The priest places ofuda around the house, and prays the nenbutsu every night.
The plan works, and Otsuyu and her maid are unable to enter, although they come every night and call out their love to Saburo. Pining for his sweetheart, Saburo’s health begins to deteriorate. Saburo’s servants, afraid that he will die from heartbreak leaving them without work, remove the ofuda from the house. Otsuyu enters, and again has sex with Saburo.
In the morning, the servants find Saburo dead, his body entwined with Otsuyu’s skeleton. His face is radiant and blissful.”
For a more in depth overview of the “Botan Doro” you can go deeper here
And here is little something from the actual Kabuki playÖ
I wrote about ghosts and Shunga before in “Seduction” Shunga, ghosts and desperation , Having wet dreams and The Erotic Ghost – danger, desire and seduction.
This erotic ghost painting (Yuurei-zu) by Senju balances between the sensual and melancholy on one hand and the subdued rage in the ghost of a young woman.
Ever since I discovered Yuurei-zu a long time ago I have suffered a strange fascination with the genre. It is not about death, danger, fear or the dark world where the Yuurei dwells. I am not the kind person who easily regards ghosts or even the soul to be something that exists in my reality but somehow the melancholy of the ghosts speak to me. Even when the paintings border on the grotesque the Japanese ghost expresses a sort of desperation. To be seen. To be recognized. To belong. To interact. The suffering of the ghost, sometimes portrayed almost as mental illness, anxiety or just the uncontrollable urge to be something else, somewhere else, just not in their lonesome world of indescribable pain.
Although I do not find the image and idea of the Japanese ghost erotic in the usual sense of the word there is nevertheless something undeniably sensual in the notion of its almost liquid and highly intangible form. Sometimes the Japanese painters of the Edo and Meiji period rendered the ghosts in terrifying bloody images but at other times they captured the fragile and the sorrowfully beautiful in images such as “A ghost before a mosquito net” by Eiho Hirezaki (1881-1968).
“A ghost before a mosquito net” by Eiho Hirezaki.
The erotic ghost.
Why do I even entertain an idea of the erotic ghost? Perhaps it has to do with my own personal idea of closeness, trust and compassion as integral parts of sexual intimacy. As I have discussed on numerous earlier occasions, I feel that there is a divide in between what I would call the idea of sex as it is taught to us by social constructions, culture, religion etc and the wonderfull thing it can be when the layers of distraction and illusion are peeled off. So maybe I feel a romantic attachment to the sadness and melancholy of the ghost and this is what in turn makes it erotic.
Halloween is soon upon us and October 2017 will be a month where I will explore the world of Yuurei-zu. I will study the traditional Japanese ghost stories of the time and try to find inspiration for paintings that will range from the slightly sensual all the way to the explicitly erotic and pornographic. I will most likely leave out blood and gore since imagery containing death, murder, rape, mutilation, or torture has no place in my artistic cosmos. Mine will be the one of the erotic ghost and the sensual specter. There are many characters within the realm of Japanese art and lore that flirt with the erotic side of things. A small amount of these are ghost. Others are perhaps strong female characters that turns into demons and other creatures. it is quite likely that some of these will end up in my catalogue of Yuurei-zu.
While you wait in anticipation for the next ghost painting you can always read “Seduction” Shunga, ghosts and desperation where I talk a little bit about my first Shunga ghost painting.
Since I have spent almost two decades researching Japanese art, history and culture as part of my traditional Japanese tattooing this will be a month of intellectual festivities. The gods know that intellectuality, sensitivity and the artistic scares the shit out of the narrow minded, the hateful, aggressive and violent. They are also quite often deadly afraid when it comes to the idea of freedom of sexuality or simply the idea of compassion and love. No wonder I look forward to it so much.
To find out who I am and why I create what I create you should read “Shunga and how I found my artistic voice (finally).”
My Shunga portrait of the famous Kabuki character “Sukeroku” (from the play with the same name). His cock is very large but this is how male genitalia was portrayed in Edo period Japanese erotic art.
The cock in Shunga
There has always been a great deal of surprise, giggles and astonishment surrounding the size of the male genitalia portrayed in Shunga. I remember that one of the first explanations I heard (more than 20 years ago, before I became interested in Japanese art) was that the average size of Japanese cocks are very small. The sizes the penises are rendered in Shunga was of course making up for the inherent inferiority complex that (still, surprisingly) comes with not being hung like the proverbial horse. Hopefully it goes without saying that cock-size confusion has nothing at all to do with the enormous penises in Shunga. One might think that it would have something to do with male gender domination. That the cock conquers all. Hmmm….that¨s not it either. It is true that the almost comical and at the same time erotic art of Shunga was aimed at a consumer group predominantly male. It is also a fact that it was considered really dirty pornography by Japanese people of Edo period days, but if you still think that cock size was important in the same way men seem to think in today’s wester culture then you are paddling in the wrong direction.
If you study a number of Shunga woodblock prints or paintings and look a bit closer you will probably find that the vaginas are equally oversized. Now, why is that? Was there a vagina-size complex going around as well? Of course not. Japanese art should not be viewed with the same eyes (or mind) used when viewing western art. There are many things central to Japanese traditional prints and paintings but what we call “realism” (and revere so highly) is not one of them. In fact, things like showing depth through light and shadow or portrait likeness was not something the artists strived for. The visual language sings a completely different tune. For example, volume in rendering the lavish Kimono of an Oiran was achieved through using varying weight in lifework. The Japanese artists used ink and brush for drawing and this lent itself to highly expressive lines. A skilled artist had no problem using this technique to breath life into his or hers work.
Likewise, keys to unlock the mystery of who was really who in an artwork was usually achieved by using symbols, objects or by placing the character in a context that was well known to the viewer. This is why all the samurai in Ukiyo-e all look bewilderingly alike when you look at their faces but their armor, clothes and helmets are vividly and painstakingly designed. When seeing Kato Kiyomasa wearing his characteristic helmet whilst fighting a tiger you can immediately tell that whose legendary exploits you are currently viewing.
So why the oversized genitalia? The simple fact is that they formed the center of attention in Shunga design. The genitalia draws your attention and you can go right into it! This form of erotic art was, as said earlier, predominantly aimed at a male audience and mostly used as visual aid when masturbating. The image needed to be easily read as the user flipped the pages of an arousing book. Little time was needed or desired for artistic contemplation. Who stops to admire the artists genius when you are about to orgasm? So now you know.
In “Otokodate” I show a more realistic size cock.
So what about big cocks?
The size of ones cock really seems to matter after all. At least if I would subscribe to the idea of what a man should be when men as a group defines themselves as sexual beings. This seems to really be the one and only thing. That and the ability to dominate and subdue women and perhaps fuck at lightning speed. Hard. Uncompromising. It starts early. Boys measuring themselves against each other in the school locker room. I remember being teased by the other boys even as high up as in high school. Apparently I wasn’t the “stallion” that was expected of me. Not that I really cared, even if it hurt when the the others called me names and pointed. And not that I was “small” either. In hindsight I think it was my glasses, my complete disinterest in sports and my affection for books and knowledge that served as the real “penis” envy.
When I was 15 the boy in our class that sported the longest slack dick in the locker room was of course very good at sports and not so highly achieving in others areas. And there is of course nothing wrong that. I liked the guy and he was nice. The other boys however could not stop talking about this guy and his cock and for some time he was a hero to them. A real man. Like they all wanted to be. It is just sad that we all had unknowingly bought into the patriarchal structure and hierarchy already at such an early age.
The cock in modern pornography
When I grew into a teenager during the late 70’s and early 80’s there was very little pornography to be obtained. It mostly consisted of small magazines that you would never dare to buy yourself. Sometimes when there was newspaper collecting day in my neighbourhood (people threw their old newspapers in a open container that was later collected by a truck) one could climb up during nighttime and rummage for comic books and the like. Sometimes, very much sometimes, we found porn of various kinds. This is where we first saw the erect cocks of men (and the vaginas of women) but I recall that the male “actors” was not very heavily equipped. In fact it ranged in between all sizes and shapes.
The internet pornography of today is dealing much more in stereotyping. It seems to me to have very little to do with sex as it is in real life. If the industry can dictate what sex is it can also dictate our urges and needs. It becomes a self serving entity that I see as destructive. Here cocks are big and men are aggressive fuck machines that use women to satisfy their sexual urges and whims. It is also unfortunately where young boys and men learn what is “real” sex and how they should be in order to fit into the contemporary patriarchal norm. There are also adds placed that tells you that; yes, you’re cock is not big enough and that if you buy some pills not only will your penis grow but so will your sexual capital.
The cock in reality
We all want to be close to others. Preferably very close. That is when humans are at their best I think. Forget football scores, going to the moon, waging wars and driving really fast. Love and compassion is what we are actually made for. Sadly we get tricked into believing otherwise by our parents that were tricked by their parents and so on. In turn they were also fooled by culture, society and tradition that life is a tough bastard so we better be prepared, know what is right and “normal”, fear the unknown and smash it in the head with a great big stick.
At least this is what expected of you if you are a boy or a man. And men really fear not fitting into their group. I would dare to say that “normal” hetero men actually values being liked by other men more than they do being liked by women. And of course, if your penis is inadequate it becomes really dangerous. But what is a adequate cock then? Here we should paus and you can all go and read this very good and scientific information on penis size. Done? Good! How do you feel about your penis now?
In reality we all have very different cocks ranging in-between somewhere 13 and 15 centimeters. In every group of 100 men there will be five that have bigger cocks and also some that are bit smaller sized. The extremes are few and far apart. Love what you have and get to know it really well (unless you haven’t already). It is not a weapon or an instrument of terror. It’s a cock.
The Senju Shunga cocks
When I create my erotic works I have come to have very little preference as to what things should look like. Drawing large cocks are fun as are drawing vaginas. I remain true to the idea of the original shunga most of the time but I also deviate from the path when I see fit to. My original idea was to create erotic or pornographic works of art that can reclaim at least a part of what the porn industry are actively stealing from us in order to make millions of dollars at the same time that they are further solidifying the gender roles that makes up the foundation of what is wrong with our human world.
For further reading on what makes my Shunga read “Shunga and how I found my artistic voice (finally).”
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.
Shunga and the supernatural. In my painting “Musei” (Jap. wet dreams) a female ghost performs oral sex on a female member of the living. I was striving for both terrifying as well as romantic lust when creating this piece.
Most Shunga depicts male-female sexual acts but there are plenty of detours taken from this norm when you study this genre. There are of course male-male sex (nanshoku) as well as the female-female dito. Edo period Japan was in many ways liberated from the idiotic moral shackles surrounding human sexuality. These ideas usually weighs down societies influenced by monotheistic religions and their subsequent cultures. Sex was not a part of immoral behavior but rather a part of life. Not that the people of Edo copulated in every street corner but conditions dictated restricted space for housing and the small houses was usually constructed out of wood and paper. It was practically impossible for people to have sex without being heard or glimpsed now and then.
In the Japanese erotic art of the Edo period there was room for the supernatural, comedy, political satire and sometimes even violence in various forms. The woodblock prints and paintings spoke a secret language spelled out clearly for the initiated but remained veiled for the individual or institution that did not have access to the various keys for deciphering the images.
So what was on my mind when creating this painting?
I feel that our human selves can do without the labeling we inherit with our mother’s milk. The idea of normalcy is an idea laced with a poison to divide and suffocate us. Nowhere is this more painfully obvious the when it comes to two major ideas that have plagued us for centuries now – the idea of ¨race¨and the idea of ‘sex’. When something is considered ¨normal it automatically labels everything else as ‘abnormal’ and in our minds this phenomena becomes strange, weird, dangerous. Like who you experience sexual pleasures with for example. Penis and vagina go together we are taught since childhood. In a way this is correct. if you are referring to making babies only. Because that is all there is to that. If you extend that idea of *biological normalcy* into the realm of sexual pleasure and arousal you are bound to go blind into the darkness.
Musei (Wet Dreams)
In this painting two females are having sex, yes, but I have no real desire to label them as lesbian or not. This will be up to the viewer, who I’m afraid will often jump to the learned or inherited conclusion. Does the fact that one is apparently dead and transformed/remained as a ghost confuse things? I hope so. Also the inherited idea and fear of what we call ghosts (which I do not believe to exist even though I have met one. Another story we can discuss at another time) is most likely as far from the complex truth of things as we can possibly get. That is a gnawing certainty that I base on my experiences in life so far.
Furthermore, we can not really assume that the ghostly apparition is really of female gender, can we? Oh, the true reality is not so easily put into your small boxes, is it? In fact, the shimmering bluish shape tasting and caressing the other woman could be a man. Even if I set out to paint a female ghost making love to living woman I am no longer sure of what I created.
One thing that I am certain of is that this is a scene of deep intimacy and beauty. Something that surpasses our small ¨ideas¨of reality. for it is within the realm of love and intimacy that reality abides. Not decorating the religious and morally sanctimonious altars of the ones that choose fear and promotes hate in order to cloak their weaknesses.
For further reading on another ghostly erotic painting I created please go here and for understanding a bit more where my art comes from please go here.