“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.
The Shunga painting “Entering the Palace”by Senju Horimatsu. Fine Art reproduction on heavy matte paper.
I am currently exploring the path of being an artist in its full sense of the word, and I am enjoying every moment! After 26 years of tattooing the world of my art is finally coming into full bloom. What a tremendous joy to create freely and without any other consideration than what pleasures me. This of course means that new art will be created and that there will be new prints added to the Gallery Store almost on a weekly basis. I have plans for collecting the shunga into hardbound books that in them selves will be works of art, and I have plans for more paintings, textile experimentations such as scarves, tote bags and clothing. There will also be handmade and fully functional sex toys which will blend the worlds of getting aroused by viewing a work of erotic art and then using it for your own pleasure.
I begin this with adding three of my analogue paintings on canvas to the Gallery Store as limited edition prints. Enjoy 🙂
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