The Lion Gate (14th century BCE, Hattusha, Turkey)
The Lion Gate (14th century BCE, Hattusha, Turkey)

under the same starry sky  



variable size

wax, iron, mirror and acrylic on canvas  

Traditionally in front of Japanese Shinto shrines, there are two different kinds of 'lions', komainu and shishi. Although these days they appear the same creature, in the past they were quite distinct, hence the two different names. In Europe, there is parallel to this in the common pairing of unicorn and lion. In both of these combinations, the creatures appear to be the symbols of guardian gods. To me, this appears to be an example of how the unique cultures and different values that we have today may unexpectedly have the same roots. I am fascinated by the origin of the combination of an animal with horns and a lion, and how this combination has traveled with the cultures of human beings around the world for over six thousands years.

     The mythological Japanese lion-dogs komainu, also known as shishi, exorcise evil spirits and protect Shinto shrines. They are usually located by the entrance or on both sides of the approach to shrines. Originally the Japanese lions were painted on fusuma (Japanese sliding screens), but after a while wooden, stone, and ceramic lions also appeared, and it became common to place them at the entrance of shrines. Originally the one facing right was called shishi and the one facing left komainu, although generally nowadays they are both referred to as komainu. At that time, there were few opportunities for Japanese sculptors to actually see lions. So sculptors created komainu based on hearsay using their imagination. The shishi with an open mouth and the horned komainu with a closed mouth are a pair, representative of aum (also known as om). The original Sanskrit term aum is composed of two letters, the first and the last of the Sanskrit alphabet. Together, they symbolically represent the beginning and the end of all things.




70 × 80 × 80 cm

clay and mirror  


Exhibition:  Löwen Safari

Kunsthalle Luzern, Switzerland

Beyond The Distant Horizons


variable size

glazed ceramic, 12 wooden crates and photo on aluminum  


Around 4000 BC in West Asia, the period in which the constellations of the Lion and the Bull appeared together in the sky just after sunset, between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox, was an important time for practicing rituals related to agriculture. In this arrangement of the constellations in the winter solstice, the Bull had supremacy over the Lion, and in the vernal equinox, the Lion had supremacy over the Bull. This understanding of the apparent movement of the constellations was related to the idea that the Lion attacks the Bull, and the image of a change of season from winter to spring that shows how there is a cycle of death and revival.

  Nowadays we can find the portrayal of lions as guardians not only in West Asia but also all over the world; an astonishing indication of common cultural roots, which connect with many religions. The constellation which we can see reminds us of the prehistorical inspiration for the holy pair of lions which has existed since ancient times.

  Heads of lions in this work were reproductions of heads of lion-statues which used to be on the roof of the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts until 1992. The project and its attendant work process, which was to reproduce the heads of the lions in ceramics, also represent the history of lions which human beings have been imitating in existing artworks for a long time.  

Original lion statues, which were made in 1893, on the roof of the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts