Shunga: Serenos & Ofegantes l Gal Oppido

Curatorial Text | Shunga: serene and breathless | Gal Oppido



Who has never seen a penis or vagina appear on the phone screen? Or perhaps someone who has muffled a moaning sound that invades meeting rooms, dinners and even speeches in the plenary, causing laughter or hysteria. The irony of eroticism -if not apparent and silent in an overmodest society, cultivated and praised by sportsmen, deputies, ministers and presidents- is present in everyday life. Among the most sent pictures via whatsapp groups are pets, family, babies and… sex. It is not in the mouth of people, but in the palms of their hands. When it is not there, maybe it is in bars, bed, a chat between friends, in Brazilian funk, samba and MPB (Brazilian Popular Music). “They loved the serene love / Of the night beaches / They lifted the skirts / And they mooned themselves / Of happiness / In that city / That doesn't have moonlight” sings Chico Buarque.

While researching about Shunga -a generic and comprehensive name given to erotic paintings, engravings and illustrated books in Japan, mainly in the Edo period (1602-1868)- I found a drawing1 in which a man, sitting dressed in a bathing suit with his apparent genitals, was courted by a woman who serves him sake.The curiosity about the image increases when we understand the text, kakiire:2

Man: "Well, I don't know if it's because of the moon, but tonight it's so good ..."
Woman: “For me too, tonight is awesome! I'm even up to five times.”
Man: "Hey, let's take a breath, how about a sip?"
Woman: "Don't just stand there drinking sake, it's poison to the body, see?"
Man: “Nonsense, you are the poison!”


The moon and the eroticism both present in Chico Buarque and in the Japanese figure do not show a coincidence, surprise and much less something magnificent; on the contrary, they are obvious simply because they make everyday life explicit. Seventeen thousand kilometers away, more than three hundred years, in a different culture; despite everything, something remains a habit: the courting of bodies, eroticism and, above all, the diverse ways of narrating sexual pleasure.

In “Shunga: serene and breathless”, it is precisely the representation of everyday sex and the sexual conventions of a living and daring society what interest Gal Oppido. Overshadowed by a rigid and sinful Western view of sexual intercourse, we unlearn how to look and come to denounce a culture without recognizing its values. “The body should impress you more ”, advises Lacan in his seminar “Encore” The warning is not valid for Gal. For an obsessed person, he sees too much. He studies, scrutinizes, digs deeply, and falls in love with everything that deals with the intimate, the erotic. Bodies that run into him become models, words, photographs, films, tracks, drawings, books, posters, poems, and performances.

If in the series "Alegorias Bíblicas" (Biblical Allegories) (2007) the artist denounced a body/object, sacred and linked to cultural theological devices that question and make nudity unthinkable, he is now interested in body/action, in eroticism, “in the detailed description of varied, and totally casual, love habits of the most common people in the population”3 during the Edo period. It is by revealing the joyful and inspiring way in which the Japanese dealt with sex that Gal Oppido breaks our own taboos. The profane, the guarded body, abstinence as a state policy.

Since Genesis and the “metaphor” of Adam and Eve, the perception of nudity and sex is associated with the awareness of the loss of divine grace and salvation; there, the carnal desire comes to exist as a sign of negativity. Tirelessly exploring other cultures, other languages, other flesh, Gal reclaims the body and its latent sensuality, restores interest and love for blood, viscera and bones and restores sexual desire as a light and ordinary moral value.



Shunga: Serenos & Ofegantes

Click on the image below to download the PDF.