Shunga (Edo/Japanese style pornographic print)
Oban size (25,4 x 38 cm)
Limited Edition of 100 prints.
Created June-August 2013
This print is the was the first in an intended series of five portraits. So far three of these has left my imagination and seen their birth on paper. The idea came to me after a seeing some Edo period (1603-1868) woodblock prints depicting close-ups of vaginas reflected in Kagami (Japanese old style mirrors). My intention was to couple each design with a famous Haiku poem and since this form of poetry traditionally revolves (at least superficially) around the Japanese traditional seasons – spring, summer, autumn, winter and the New Year, I did imagine a logical flux through them.There was to be two female prints reflected by two male ones and the fifth showing the two coming together (the New Year).
Initially I struggled for a long time, alway incorporating to much information into the designs and after several months of anxious painting and repeatedly throwing everything but the centerpiece away, I finally arrived at a format I was content with. My background as a traditional Japanese tattoo artist probably clashed with the subtleties I was aiming for and the creative process proved to be painful and tedious until the first breakthrough was accomplished. I was simply “tattooing” the prints and much of the eroticism and plain horniness was drowned in arrays of flowers and other overly obvious additions.
For this print I chose a poem by Buson (1715-1783). I stumbled across it when looking through one of the several Haiku books in my modest but to the point library that serves as some sort of a backbone for most of my creative projects.
When I first started flirting with the Japanese arts I collected books on the subject from floor to ceiling. It was a necessity as well as an obsession of mine. I read them all from cover to cover, full of feverish hunger and a burning desire to learn and somehow become initiated. I understood that I knew nothing and I also hoped that I could learn something. For a brief period I transformed one of the rooms of our small house into a library. It was a dream I had nourished since a young boy and I was filled with pride as I arranged the volumes on Zen, Kabuki, Haiku and Ukiyo-e on their designated shelves. And there they also remained. Until I suddenly sold most of them to colleagues and friends.
I had come to the realization that my hardbound treasures reminded me more of old dusty bones piled along the walls of some catacomb somewhere beneath a decaying old city. I understood that once they were read they served no purpose to me and could instead benefit a new owner. Perhaps someone that was more in need of their printed secrets. Also I needed money in order to constantly return to Japan.
As the years have accumulated on top of that realization I have also understood that I am perhaps a somewhat impulsive and rash nature and that some books can actually become a part of you, so I have started collecting again. This time I am desperatly trying to limit myself to jus a few bookcases and if I find a new book, one of the old ones has to move out. I hope this will in the end polish my reference library into a sharp and skilled blade.
The Haiku on the print reads;
ko no ma no tera to
nari ni keri
which in english becomes;
Cherry blooms are falling -
and now between the trees,
a temple appears.
I believe my print fits the words perfectly. I used the traditional Irezumi (traditional Japanese tattoo) pattern of Sakura Fubuki (winter cherry blossoms) and as far as the temple goes I think the design works splendidly.
I worked hard to paint a vagina that was exiting and at the same time sweet and lovely. Something that would make you almost fall in love . Or at least make your heart beat faster. It is supposed to be a portrait of somebody and I didn’t want this intimate close-up to be just “porn”, like the images you would find almost everywhere on the internet these days. That type of pornography seems to me contrived and decieving and has not so much to do with being lustful or horny as it has to do with basic reations to visual stimuli. In short, it doesn’t turn me on intellectually or emotionally. What is today labeled pornography is shallow and void and if you have had really real sex you know what I am talking about. The heart has to be in it.
Shunga (Edo/Japanese style pornographic print)
Oban size (25,4 x 38 cm)
Limited Edition of 100 prints.
Created Aug-Sept 2013
A Zen priest fucking a tattooed young woman? Some people would accuse me of being irreverent or even blasphemic (dramatic word,that one) for portraying a treasured Zen master in this fashion. It’s alright. I forgive them, because they do not know reality from illusion. Labelling, judgementalism and hypocrasy has been a human shortcoming for longer than recorded history stretches back and unfortunately many of our moral codes has sprung out of fear of the unknown or the minds of afraid and small minded men trying to cling to illusions of power. It is all very understandable when you scratch the surface of human behaviour but it doesn’t make it right.
When I finally emabarked on this creative pornographic journey I did so with a few underlying intentions. The first is of course to see if I can greate the porn that I would like to see myself. Respectful, emotional and true to me. In my view what is commonly referred to as pornography today is alien to me at best and grotesque at worst. As a human being I am inclined to be interested in the erotic and sensual in depictions of sex or writings about fucking, but the cheaply made respectless exuses for porn that are sent into cyberspace by people hungry for money are nothing but insulting. In that business people are shewed up and later discarded as low morals walks away with their pockets full of green.
I will not go as far as to say that I am some sort of porn monk who can control my erotic impulses and abstain from pornography all together. However, when I sucumb to watching “porn” it leaves a metallic taste in my mouth and spits upon my intellect. I want to try to create something horny and sensual at the same time. Something that is human and emotional and walk all over people. Because just like everything else we know deep down inside is not quite okay, consuming pornography sprung out of highly questionable and foolish desires to cash in on human urges using the weaker, well, that fucks with our minds.
My second intention was to see if I could do something more with the pornography that I wanted to create. It was not something specific but rather a multitude of things. Just like real sex in real life I wanted my works to be sometimes humorous, sometimes serious and perhaps even a bit sad. I wanted to show romance as well as hot raw fucking inbetween couples sharing hearts or souls, and I also wanted (in a Zen way) to fuck with your minds a bit. To play with the eyes of the beholder. What if I could actually say something that was important to me? Zen, heart, love, death, life and human relationships. “It’s all just human life” as Irezumi master Horiyoshi III would have put it. “Just human life”.
So here we have my version of “The Enlighment of Jigokudayu”. This a theme often explored in traditional Ukiyo-e by great artist like Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892) and Kawanabe Kyosai (1831-1889), but I have not seen a version quite like mine yet. Maybe I should humour you with some some words on the story behind the original theme before I commence with my own.
Jigokudayu was a thirteenth century courtesan from the port city Sakai in the province of Takasu. As most of you know “courtesan” is another way to say prostitute and this was her profession. As in all periods of history this was no easy way to earn a living and usually you died worned out before you reached old age. Jigokudayu however, experienced buddhist enlighment and had the opportunity to walk the path in a differnt manner and this is perhaps why the story have stayed around. It also has something to do with the other character inthis drama, a Zen man by the name of Ikkyu.
Ikkyu (1394-1482) is a real historic person and highly revered throughout Japan. A great spiritual and religious man with a rebellious streak and a disarming honesty colouring his accomplishments as one of the great Zen teachers of all time with an undoubtable shade of humanity. A man of enlighment that also drank rivers of sake, wrote poetry and regarded sex as form of practising Zen. Torn between a monastic Zen life as monk becoming priest and later even abbot over the largest Rinzai Zen Complex in Kyoto - Daitokuji - and his strong distaste for hypocrasy and the religious politics of his time, he spent a large portion of his life in brothels and drinking parlours.
The story has it that it was Ikkyu himself that adopted Jigokudayu and helped mature in her enlightment. He also provided her with a litterary education.
So what about my print? Why are they fucking? Is she simply returning favours? Physical pleasure for spirtual dito?
The traditonal way of depicting Jigokudayu is to have her done out in high end courtesan fashion, complete with elaborate hair adorned with large ornamental hairpins and layers of Kimono. The outer one is usually showing a scene from Buddhist hell, where Emma, the ruler of buddhist purgatory, is distributing just (and gruesome) punishment upon wrongdoers and sinners. He is usually surrounded by fire. I chose to liberate Jigokudayu of her heavy robes and instead transform her skin into a kimono. A traditional Japanese tattoo is often likened to a colorful brocade, and after all, isn’t the hellish scene on her kimono just a reflection of human suffering? Her own? I believe so. Because of the inimacy of the moment I also let her well kept hair down. Perhaps it is a sign of trust. Of appearances shed.
Ikkyu is the unshaved crumpled priest I have met through his many poems. A man that knows high and low and how to tell the difference. For him outer appearances doesn’t matter. Here his mind is set on the moment of enlighment and nothing else.
For this is in fact an image of enlighment. Ikkyu’s cock is an image of one of the three sacred Jewels of Buddhism (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha - Buddha, the teaching, the community) and Jigokudayu’s pussy is an image of her human heart. He doesn’t really give her anything yet she recieves. She already had it in her. All along. Just like Zen speaks about Buddhahood, that we are already perfect in every way. We just got lost on the path. This is why there is no need for penetration in my image. All she needs is a little gentle push and then she does it all her self, the letting go. The fire that once was a symbol of judgement and suffering now radiates from her heart (pussy) and rises towards the top of her head where her relaxed features tells us not of ecstatic orgasm and fleeting pleasures but of insight and capitulation in front of the inevetability of true reality.
It’s a slow tender fuck on the way to salvation.
And Emma, tattooed on her back and visible in the mirror, gets to play the voyeur as his character in the human drama is shown the door for all the futures to come. Well, at least he got to see something exiting as this soul slipped out of his grip. Just as you did.
(and if you just want to view it as porn, that works for me as well).