Senju Shunga's Erotic Ode to Hokusai's Fuji Series
The Swedish sensual artist Senju Shunga has started a rather ambitious shunga project. On his Instagram account he tells, 'The last few years I have explored less explicit forms of erotic art and I have learned many new things. Not only have I pushed my boundaries of how to paint digitally, but I have also honed and fine tuned my expression of the sensual.
Hokusai's 36 views of Mt. Fuji
However, as so many other artists I regularly attempt to return to my roots, just to see how things will come out using all new knowledge and skill acquired. I will attempt to create a 36 print series more attuned with traditional Japanese shunga (albeit with my personal artistic touch) titled after Katsushika Hokusai's "36 views of Mt. Fuji". It will be kind of an homage to the Japanese painter that is still continuously changing the face of both Japanese and western art.'
You can discover the complete series below...
Irezumi, the traditional Japanese tattoo, is the main focus of my latest painting in my "36 Views Of Mount Fuji" series. After 32 years as a tattoo artist, of which I have dedicated 20 to Irezumi, it is a subject matter that frequently appears in my painted works. The intricatly decorated skin of persons wearing Japanese body suit tattoos can have a powerful effect on the viewer. I find it intriguing and exiting to pair my insight, knowledge and experience of tattooing with my Shunga art. Katsushika Hokusai was celebrated for the many inventive ways he depicted the famous and sacred mountain in his original woodblock print series from the 1830s. As I strive to emulate the master's genius compositions in my version, I find my artistic skills and imagination challenged.
Hokusai's Red Fuji
Since the Shunga theme takes centre stage in my series, the mountain often becomes a supporting actor, a fond, and I am content to let it do so. As the series progresses, my senses sharpen, and I am sure I will find new ways of incorporating Fuji's well known shape in many new and imaginative ways. In "Onnayu", I am shamelessly using my version of one of the more famous of Hokusai's Fuji compositions - the so called "Red Fuji". Traditional communal bath houses (Sento) often display a large mural painting of Mount Fuji, and the image came to me without hesitation. Being a great fan of Sento bath houses myself (I have even bathed with the Yakuza a few times on my visits to Kyoto), this painting makes me long for the scolding hot and steaming water of a Japanese public bath
Fig.12. 'Oboroyo (misty, moonlit night) ' (7 Jan 2023)
Best and Worse
Poetry could most likely not exist without this strange and unique human trait we call LOVE. This fleeting yet immensely powerful emotion and seemingly natural state that we all so desperately seek… Without love, we are lost, lonely, seeking… Love is clarity and insanity at the same time. In its name the best and worse of human actions are committed. Elevating us… Destroying us…
Love is not simple, yet it is the easiest thing in the world. Without the vulnerability it blesses us with, we are never whole and complete. In order to love, we must learn our own hearts, face our worst fears… let go of the ideas we have been taught and hold so true. Love can be turned outwards as well as inwards. We do not need a partner in order to love. We can love ourselves. Unconditionally.
Fig.13. 'Yuuyake (evening glow)' (7 Jan 2023)
Fig.14. 'Mitsugo (sweet whispers of love)'
Fig.15. 'Roushou (old pine tree) '
Overly Orgasm Oriented Drivel
"A wonderful thing with creating this shunga series is that I have to constantly be on my toes and come up with new and interesting designs. Since they all have to show the famous Japanese mountain as well makes it extra challenging! Back when I started painting erotica, I sought to portray what had become so distorted through the internet in a more natural and intimate manner. I have no interest in merely copying the unrealistic, many times violent and overly orgasm oriented drivel the "industry" is churning out.
Less Flattering Labels
I want to create erotica and shunga art based on real human emotions and desire. Since it all gets filtered through my individual self, with my unique experiences, fantasies and imagination, I am fully aware that what I paint will not suit everyone. I am perfectly fine with that. I sometimes receive messages from persons that dress me up in varying and less flattering labels. I guess that is a part of showing my art to the public. l am not going to say "I don't care", because it's difficult and sad to be misunderstood as an artist and person. However, I try to deal with it as best as I could. Usually through creating new art." (Senju Shunga on Instagram)
Fig.16. 'Aofuji (Blue Fuji) '
Fig.17. 'Getagake (wearing clogs) '
Fig.18. 'Shiragiku (white chrysanthemum) '
Fig..19. 'Kanagawa oki nami-ura (great wave off Kanagawa) '
Fig.20. 'Tokaido Yoshida (Yoshida along the Tokaido) '
"Tako to Ama (the Octopus and the Pearl Diver)"
When working on this series of paintings, it is not possible to resist the urge to sneak in small celebrations of the rest of Hokusai's art. Some time ago I created another version of this theme, but this soft and new style of mine offers up completely different avenues of creativity. Just like Hokusai did, I change and evolve at regular but unpredictable intervals. And that is the whole point with making art! To see what new and exciting paths my creative mind will lead me down. I often think that "Now I have found it! My style!", only to be surprised of how unexpected the new direction really was. I once asked an old Japanese tattoo master a thousand questions. "How to think about this composition and about that design?". After listening to all my anxious questions he said calmly ; "Better no thinking". This has since then become a very important tool in my box of things that I make art with. Art is about making! (Senju Shunga on Instagram)
Fig.22. 36 Views Of Mount Fuji no. 22 "Tatsudoshi (year of the dragon)"
"Tatsudoshi (year of the dragon)"
True intimacy has been my guiding word since the I first started to paint my shunga. It is my personal belief that what I create cannot be done without keeping this in mind. There is a connection between human beings that goes beyond the mere physical. There are emotions and sensations that are impossible to put into words. Perhaps I'm just old but it seems to me that the time we are living in, is one of great disconnection. At first glance, social media promises a heightened interconnection, but in reality it is a vehicle of separation.
It is my hope that what I paint can be a speck of rust in their machine. In this piece, the mighty Mount Fuji is as tiny as a a little rock on the ground. I truly enjoy creating all the little details that make up my works. Even if the viewer hardly notice them, they are vital to the completed painting. Like designing and painting a tiny shunga print with a tiny folding screen in that can carry the great big Mount Fuji.
Fig.23. 36 Views Of Mount Fuji no.23 "Chouchou no yume (the butterfly's dream)"
The Butterfly's Dream
Our dreams seem so very real to us in our sleep. Sometimes they even make more sense then this thing we call reality. To us, dreams are.a part of our existence, and they have been the inspiration for thousands upon thousands of art works throughout human history. This is not one of them though. The inspiration for this came from a photo I found on the internet somewhere. Many times, my paintings begin just like that. There might be a certain pose, or just a color. Sometimes they are pornographic images and other times they are landscapes, kimono patterns or old Japanese paintings and woodblock prints. What they do, all these images, is that they trigger my artistic vision, fuse and blend with other images and impressions, experiences, old folktales and a myriad of things stored in my mind.
On Her Behind
If you would see the starting point for some of my paintings, perhaps you would scratch your head and mutter "what (how) was he thinking?" Most of the time, I don't even know myself, to be honest. This painting is one of those crazy ones that materialized out thin air and found creation. After it was completed, I searched for a long time for a title. Until my gaze landed on the butterfly on her behind, and everything fell into place. It was just a dream.
Fig.24. 36 Views Of Mount Fuji no.24, Boshoku (twilight scene) (May 2023)
Fig.25. 36 Views Of Mount Fuji no. 25 “Momijigari (viewing the autumn leaves)”
Fig.26. 36 Views Of Mount Fuji no. 26 “Asayu (morning bath)”
Fig. 27. 36 Views Of Mount Fuji no. 27 “Suiyoubi (Wednesday afternoon)”
Fought Back Valiantly
As my shunga print series steadily progresses, and it's completion approaches, I have started to run into creative obstacles. When designing so many different scenes that all have to somehow show a view of Mount Fuji, it becomes increasingly difficult to come up with new material. This particular painting fought back valiantly, and slowed me down for more than a week. As so many times before (will I ever learn?) it turned out that I simply wanted to include too much in the scene. It took three separate and very detailed rooms/ backgrounds before I could finally arrive in simplicity and the directness I wanted.
When two persons are involved in such a complex merger of souls as the two in this painting, it's vital to keep the rest to a bare minimum. And where is Mount Fuji, you might ask? It resides on the Kakejiku (hanging scroll) on the wall. I painted a copy of one of my favorite zen paintings by one of my favorite zen persons, Yamaoka Tesshu (1836-1888). Beneath the simple brush stroke that is Mount Fuji there is a small snail (Fig.27c). The text reads; "If this snail sets out for Mount Fuji, surely it will get there ". A saying that is more than true regarding the creation of this shunga work.
Fig. 28. 36 Views Of Mount Fuji no. 28 “Kagetsu (flowers and the moon)”
Fig.29. 36 Views Of Mount Fuji no. 29 Joushuu Ushibori (fUshibori in Hitachi province)
Fig.30. 36 Views Of Mount Fuji no. 30 Shichirigahama (seven league beach)
Fig.31. 36 Views Of Mount Fuji no. 31. “Kiristubo (the paulownia pavilion)”
Fig.32. 36 Views Of Mount Fuji no. 32. “Shouryuu (rising dragon)”
Fig.33. 36 Views Of Mount Fuji no. 33. “Umemi (viewing plum blossoms)”
Fig.34. 36 Views Of Mount Fuji no. 34. “Bishuu Fujimigahara (fuji view moor)”
Fig.35. 36 Views Of Mount Fuji no. 35. “Asakusa Tanbo (Asakusa rice paddies)”
Fig.36. 36 Views Of Mount Fuji no. 36. “Hachigatsu (August)”
Fig.37. Promotion poster for the exhibition ”36 Views of Mount Fuji” at the Bumpodo Gallery in Jimbocho, Tokyo between the 24th and 29th of August
The prints in this series are available in the artist's gallery.
What do you think about Senju Shunga ode to Hokusai's Fuji series? Leave your reaction in the comment box below...!!!