NPJ Book Review: Erotic Art of the East by Philip Rawson

Erotic Art of the East by Philip Rawson (1968) Primitive and otherwise ancient cultures, not being as technology diverse as today (read 1960’s) and even more so in the 21st century, relied on a more culturally direct and poignant translation of the sensual in life.

In these explicit photos of sculpture and paintings from Ancient India, China and Japan among others is an appreciation for love for the sake of love, pleasure for the sake of pleasure and the art of sexual fulfillment within the context of cultures that seemed ahead of their time (or our time) in some respects. It was not pornography. The term had yet to be invented. Some of the art depicts consensual sexual deviation as a private ceremony for the sake of banishing anxiousness.

This work explores an array of erotic art and it’s cultural meaning and the context in which the art was produced. One example is in which Rawson explores the world of the erotic through art – an entire temple such as the Black Pagoda with its hundreds of erotic sculptures (Orissa, India) is dedicated to love. Yet the temple was left uncompleted.

As much as this work is erotic and explicit, it’s highly symbolic. Even Taoism possesses a cryptic sexual symbolism through its language. The author explores Hindu and Buddhist influences among others with thoughtfulness. Whether it was polygamy or polyandry or homosexuality or other sexual pleasure society didn’t bother to condemn or voice displeasure if it didn’t have an effect on property.

The spiritual and physical in life are woven together as the erotic, sensual and sensuous played an active role in beliefs of a higher consciousness – only to change when the dogmas of a faith or a belief and the subsequent politics focused towards the control of people’s behavior to conform to one’s own position of power and finance do we see changes.