Mayu Manson as Sei Shōnagon in Senju Shunga’s The Pillow Book
Marijn Kruijff
4 min

Mayu Manson as Sei Shōnagon in Senju Shunga's The Pillow Book

4 min

The Swedish artist Senju Shunga follows a meticulous process in the creation of his work. This can be seen nicely in his last painting ‘Makura no Sōshi  (the Pillow Book – Mayu Manson as Sei Shōnagon – Fig.2 to 13) of which you can view the different stages below.

Empress Teishi

Senju got the idea for this scene from the famous ‘The Pillow Book (Maura no Sōshi)‘ of Sei Shōnagon. She was an author, poet and court lady who served the Empress Teishi around the year 1000 during the middle Heian period. Another impetus for creating this piece were some of Sei Shōnagon’s lines in her brilliant ‘Makura no Sōshi (the Pillow Book)‘. It concerns the following quotes, ‘Things that arouse a fond memory of the past and ‘It was a clear, moonlit night a little after the tenth of the Eighth Month.’ ‘Makura no Sōshi ‘ took quite some time to complete, as some of Senju’s new paintings have become increasingly detailed in recent years. There is also a subtle reference to shunga on the inside of the shells depicting classic erotic scenes featuring aristocratic couples (Fig.3 and 11)

Shin Hanga Look

The painting is made up of different scenes, each of which tells its own story. The artist started with the pine and the veranda bathing in the moonlight, and aimed at a Shin Hanga look in the same vein as Hiroshi Yoshida and Kawase Hasui. He has no favorite era when it concerns Japanese painting and print styles but instead learned to fuse them in his own universe. Senju: “Japanese tradition is never settling in to become some dead fossil of some romanticized past. It’s the constant careful and respectful evolution of what people have created before that makes Japanese art and culture so strong and alive. I hope I am creative and skilled enough to pull this off.”

mayu manson tongue

Fig.1. The Japanese artist Mayu Manson (Source:

Mayu Manson

Senju’s intention of putting Sei Shōnagon on the canvas already existed for a couple of years but it was not until he saw Mayu Manson’s ahegao work (Fig.1) at the NuraNura group show in Tokyo at the end of 2019. that he finally understood how. Mayu’s video installation was next to where his works were hanging and his ‘Gyokumon‘ painting (in which a woman licks a peony flower) was in the same field of view as her screens.

matti-horimitsu artist


Collaborative Banner

Senju: “Suddenly a vague but real idea of how I could paint Sei Shōnagon appeared to me. I was in the gallery every evening during my ten days in Tokyo and the next time Mayu came in I asked her if she was interested in some kind of collaboration. She said she had already thought about asking me the same and a collaboration was born. During the pandemic we have exchanged some ideas (still sketchy and secretive) and I am looking forward to take the project further ahead. For now, ‘Makura no Sōshi ‘ has the honor to mark the beginning of what I hope will be many works under the collaborative banner.”

senju shunga painting detail


senju shunga painting


Senju Shunga's Makura no Sōshi




senju shunga Mayu Manson


senju shunga modern


artist Senju Shunga


painter Senju Shunga


tattoo art Senju Shunga


irezumi Senju Shunga


the pillow book senju shunga

Fig.13. ‘Makura no Sōshi” (the Pillow Book – Mayu Manson as Sei Shōnagon)

Click HERE for our second interview with Senju Shunga…!!

A short impression of Mayu Manson’s video installation can be found on Twitter….!!

This new print is now available at Two Cranes Gallery…!!

Sources: Senju Shunga, Instagram, Two Cranes Gallery.

Let us know your thoughts on this new work by Senju Shunga in the comment box below…!!