Senju Shunga's Very First Shunga & The Story of Kiyohime
The five paintings below (three included in this artilcle) were my first dedicated attempts to create shunga. I seem to recall that the project was initiated just around Christmas 2012 and the fifth and last composition was completed in the middle of January 2013.
Old Monkey Wrenches
At this time I had really no idea of what I wanted to achieve. At first I was merely copying classic shunga, changing the original scenery and adding my own tattoo designs to the characters skin. In a way I was still very much tattooer and a lot of emphasis was placed on keeping the images possible to tattoo. This way of thinking is still something I struggle with when creating new works. My 28 years of tattooing has provided me with a great toolbox full of tricks of the trade, but as I now evolve as an artist in other mediums none of the old monkey wrenches fit my new nuts and blots.
In a Sexual Embrace
When I began designing the fifth and last design which is the one directly overleaf, I had already started to formulate what has now become my artistic manifest. The painting shows the monk Anchin and the girl Kiyohime in a sexual embrace before the great bell of Dojoji temple (Fig.3). You can read the tragic tale of these young lovers in the text accompanying the Kiyohime painting in Premium.
Loosing Their Mind
Already now I had began to think in terms of what is regarded as normal and of there really is such a thing in reality. My painting shows Kiyohime chewing on a strand of her hair which in Japanese art is a sign of a restless, tortured soul on the verge of loosing their mind. The idea was that their sexual relationship erased her boundaries between what is real and what is her imagination.
In the beginning of February 2013 I released the paintings as a set of five prints at the Milan Tattoo Convention. They were met with curiosity and well received, perhaps mostly because of the content rather than their aesthetics. Nevertheless, during summer of that same year I began working on the five mirrors of the seasons and my course was set towards erotic art.
Even if I nowadays shy away from showing these first five images I still feel gratitude towards their existence since they were the unexpected beginnings of a new stage in my artistic life. Sometimes I play with the idea that I should perhaps repaint them, using all the knowledge and the technical finesse that I now possess, but new and more exciting ideas always appear. I am now resigned to the fact that I will most likely never have the time to see that project through.
In Premium you can find all the five shunga pieces by Senju, an extensive description of the artist's 2016 work Kiyohime in his own words including the tale of Kiyohime, and a striking version of the subject by the Meiji master Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.
Source: Kagami - Contemporary Shunga by Senju Shunga