Thursday, April 3, 2008

Shunga - Japanese Erotic Art

I like erotic art.
By "erotic art" I mean art! Not porn. Never porn.

To me erotic art - as with all art - is clever, surprising, executed with skill,
respectful of the particip
ants, and has a mature attitude toward sex itself.
Porn is 2-dimensional, poorly or violently rendered, disrespectful toward the participants,and has a teenager's giggly attitude toward sexuality.

Shunga is the generic name of Japanese erotic art. Ukiyo-e was the name of the movement which flourished from 1660 to 1860 and which produced the most famous wood-block prints of this genre.
I'm continually fascinated by the different attitudes toward sexuality in
world cultures - past and present.
Especially past.
Erotic art and free sexual expression is respected and prized in many cultures yet met with moral outrage and condemnation in others. And sometimes these responses exist side by side in the same culture.

In China and India, for example, sex was raised to a level of mystical significance.
The Japanese approach during this time considered sex a
natural and enjoyable event.

There was no moral corruption associated with it. Their art showed heterosexual and homosexual sex, group sex, anal intercourse, etc, without judgment.
The judgment would come later when Japan was opened to the West.
This art became simply "embarrassing" to the Western art establishment by the turn of the 20th century and fell out of view.
I like optical illusions.
What I love about this art is that it's design is the first thing you see. Your eyes notice the intermingled colors first, then follow the folded cloth and become aware of the tangled limbs. Only then does the viewer start to see what is really taking place in the scene! And what is really taking place is usually depicted pretty graphically! This art definitely challenges our Western sensibilities. But by then the art has taken you on a little journey to it's center. And you can look at these prints over and over again and see the unmistakable artistry and beauty of them. They are sexual art for adults. Back in their day they were considered not only fine art, but were used as teaching tools. There were even books called sleeve books made expressly for women to carry in their kimono sleeves.

Learn more about this art form.
There are many books and websites where you can learn and
see more about this art.

I own a copy of "Shunga - the Art of Love in Japan" by Tom and Mary Anne Evans, published by Paddington Press.
And here are a couple of websites among many:

1 comment:

Stacy Alexander said...

I am crazy about this kind of Japanese art. There is a very old kind of East Indian art of the same genre that I also like.

Nice post, Kim.