“Hasu” means Sacred Lotus in Japanese. In Buddhism the lotus is a symbol of enlightenment, as the flower grows out of the muddy bottom of the pond and rises itself above the water surface.
In the “Hasu” painting the woman’s shaved head would perhaps suggest that she is some sort of buddhist nun. At least a bit holy or enlightened or at least getting there sooner than later. Yet she reveals herself to us rubbing her pussy against a lotus bud. Obviously it is a pleasurable thing to do so. She is looking back at us over her shoulder not caring at all that we are her voyeurs. There is nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed for. As it should be.
Let me explain my intentions with this Shunga painting. Besides the obvious erotic connotations of course. Many years ago I took a crash course in Zen buddhism. This was a basic easy hard thing to get involved in. It meant jumping straight into monastic life for 5 days. Quite a shock but a very sweet one. Zen monastic life can be challenging at first but naturally it grows on you. At this crash course there was a man that perhaps felt a bit confused and threatened that Zen buddhism is an actual religion and not just a philosophy as he might have read in some book or article.
At this point I ask you to keep in mind that Zen is a religion without prayer, gods, sin etc. It is the systemization that makes it a religion. And the belief that yo can save yourself from a lot of emotional suffering through stilling your confused mind. Sound easy? It really is. And of course is not.
On the first night of our stay this man wanted to question the idea of bowing to the Buddha statue placed on the altar when entering the Zendo (meditation hall). I guess he felt uncomfortable bowing to things. So the Zen master kindly explained to him that, since we are all Buddhas since birth (we just forgot about as we grew up and people and society filled us up with confusing ideas) the image of the Buddha is really an image of your self. Like a mirror. So wen entering the zendo you basically bow to yourself, acknowledging that you are about to work hard on returning to your original self. Now, that is simple!
So this Shunga painting is something like that if you give it some thought. As a sentient being you are perfect as you are. It is only ideas that make you otherwise. Shaved head does not make you holy or spiritual in itself. Neither should it be regarded as neither normal or not normal. It is simply a shaved head. The rest you add yourself.
When it comes to the human body, sex and intimacy we are really falling into thousands of immediate little traps based on ideas. Thought patterns inherited, learnt….. very seldom are any of these things something that we ourselves have arrived at after careful deliberation. They just simply appear out of thin air. Like menstruation is gross, breastfeeding in public is inconsiderate and equally gross, the female naked body drives men in to fits of horniness and therefore should be covered, same-sex sexual encounters are wrong by “nature” (hey, in that case cars, bicycles, trains and planes should deliver us to hell as well. We are born with two feet, god damn it!), fucking will send you to “hell” and so will masturabtion too! Well, all of these ideas are at the best idiotic but mostly tragic and also tremendously dangerous. Millions of people have been killed over ideas no one really know where they picked up.
So the figure in the “Hasu” shunga painting is you (yes it really is), rubbing your self against the lotus that is your original and perfect mind as it was when yo first arrived in this world. Bow to yourself. Love yourself!
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
The Shunga print “Seduction” is one of my earlier prints. Creating the mood and space took much longer than I expected. Proof that every art work lives its own life.
Sometimes the human heart clings desperatly to the idea of closeness and intimacy. “Seduction” depicts this desperation and longing for love dressing it in the imaginary fabrics of a classical ghost story. The ghost of Japanese myth and folklore holds a special place in my artistic and romantic heart as the stories are often melancholic and breaths the air of strong human emotions. This particular scene is not based on a traditional Japanese ghost story but rather a figment of my own imagination.
In the abandoned old buddhist temple a young man has sought shelter for the night and fallen asleep on the worn and moldy tatami mats. Outside the darkened wooden walls, the night is black and velvety. Only the cikadas dare to make a sound. his tattooed body suggests that he is not of Samurai class but rather a ruffians or gambler. Perhaps an Otokodate traveling from one town to the next, exhausting hospitality through boasting and bullying, hustling and cheating.
She is trapped between heaven and hell, tethered to the temple grounds where her body was buried improperly and in haste after her shameful suicide. Her lover, who had sworn himself to her even in the death of their desperate suicide pact, had not followed her into the shadows. Afraid and trembling he had watched her slowly bleed to death from her self inflicted cuts across the her wrists, and the fled the scene, leaving her alone among the trees behind the old temple. Perhaps he cried for some time, but most likely he was strangely relieved that he was still alive. Perhaps her face passing into the dimness of silent death would haunt him momentarily during the remainder of his life but the memory of their young love would fade and wither until becoming just a faint whisper.
She had laid in the shadow of the cedars, bamboos and pines for little more than five days until she was found, all the while the family and friends searching for her would pass her by very close but never seem to divert their eyes in her direction. Sometimes the randomness of existence plays tricks on us like that. Finally some children exploring the shady wooded area behind the temple had found her and she had been buried to the scent of incense and sound of sobbing.
Now her ghost desperately crawls on top of the sleeping man, holding him so close, so very close…. straddling him and lowering her hips over his hard cock. She cannot remember desire, only this fear of being alone again. Her long disheveled hair floats around the dark room, slithering like snakes, every part of her ethereal being clinging on for a dear life she does not posess any longer. She is confused and lonely and afraid. She will never leave him. He will never wake up again and never leave her. The cikadas are to busy serenading to pay any attention to the two figures ghostly embrace and after her body was found behind the temple last spring not even the curious children come here to roam and explore. Summer, autumn and winter will pass and perhaps no one will ever come looking for him.
And she will never be alone again.
For more information on Shunga and other erotic things please see my links