Exploring Japanese Hell.

“God of Heavenly Punishment.” From the scroll “Extermination of Evil” ( 1127 – 1192 AD).

As a child, growing up in Japan, there was one book that terrified me. Luckily, I didn’t own it. The red hardback sat on the bottom shelf in my friend’s room and every time I went over to play I could see it, out of the corner of my eye, staring me in the face. Once we pulled it out and flipped through the pages; each featured a grotesquely illustrated realm of hell with scenes of fire, torture, and suffering. It was, I assure you, a children’s book. But it was made for parents to use as leverage whenever their child acted up, or misbehaved. And boy was it effective.

These concepts of hell (jigoku; 地獄 in Japanese) are derived from ancient Buddhist scriptures, and I’m ceaselessly amazed by the imagination of the monks and artists who came up with so many different forms of punishment. The range from the fairly standard – being eaten alive by demons and dragons, or being torn apart at the crotch – to the more inventive – being forced to hold large stalks of daikon radish in your mouth and being used as a drumstick. Then, there’s my favorite: being flattened out by a roller and then cut up into soba noodles.

Now, a new art book that’s being released in October has collected a wide range of images that depict hell in Japanese art from the 12th century to the 19th century. The massive single-volume collection consists of almost 600 pages of works designated as Japanese National Treasures and features the various depictions of hell by artists such as Kazunobu Kanō,Yoshitoshi Tsukioka and the master of horror Kyōsai Kawanabe.

It’s currently available for pre-order on Amazon. Essays from historians of both Japanese art and Buddhism are also included in bilingual text. If you have kids you may (or may not) want to leave this book sitting around.

You can read, and see much more of the always gruesome hell at Spoon & Tamago.

Girl Mobb’s Graffiti School.

Flyer courtesy Girl Mobb.

When it comes to street art, saying there’s a gender disparity is a serious understatement, and Girl Mobb is working to change that. You can read all about it at The Creators Project (see more, too), and check out Girl Mobb’s Instagram and visit the Graffiti Camp Site.

What A Soul Looks Like.

Oh, souls. There are those who are insistent that souls are real, in spite of them being intangible and invisible. They have much in common with the invisible pink unicorn. I’ve been immersed in Medieval manuscripts again, and came across a depiction of the weighing of a soul, and a woman carrying a soul. Click images for full size!

The weighing of a soul.

A woman carrying a soul.

There’s one mystery cleared up, eh? :D

Via The British Library.

Albert Janzen.

© Albert Janzen.

© Albert Janzen.

I know there will be at least one person who sees these, and thinks to themselves, “oh c’mon, anyone could do that!” The truth is not anyone can do that, and while it might look simple and easy to do, it isn’t. Go ahead, get some paper, grab a ballpoint pen or marker, and go for it.

I love all these pieces, and yes, I have tried this sort of thing before, I don’t have the knack. My attempts are a mess.

After studying Philosophy and Mathematics in Berlin, London and Amsterdam, he decided to follow his artistic path while he discovered his love for the line. In 2015 Albert won the Luxembourg Art Prize 2015 whilst finishing his Masters in Logic at the University of Amsterdam. Inspired by the autonomous work of Cy Twombly, Gerhard Richter and Zao Wou-Ki, Janzen’s line drawings represent themselves as an independent entity. The lines are very simple and basic, so various patterns can be constructed. The ultimate simplicity of the line manifests its independent aesthetics. Albert draws lines not to make simple drawings, but to draw lines that create art by themselves. The shapes and patterns occurring in Janzen’s drawings have no other purpose than to reveal the movements of lines.

You can see more of Albert Janzen’s work at iGNANT, or his website.