I’ve seen this painting several times over the past year or so and have always found it disturbing, for some obvious and some less definable reasons.
I recently saw it again and something dawned on me.
Granted, we don’t always see them depicted in the same order, so I looked this up:
“The “three wise monkeys,” (三猿) also known as the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” monkeys, date back to the Muromachi period of Japan. Popularized by the carvings over the Tosho-gu shrine in Nikko, Japan, these monkeys are a popular motif and are frequently depicted around the world.”
“The Buddhist teachings said that if we do not hear, see or speak evil, we ourselves shall be spared from evil.”
“The depiction of three monkeys is actually a play on words. In Japanese, the proverb is mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru (見ざる, 聞かざる, 言わざる) or “see not, hear not, speak not”. Zaru can also be a modified form of the word for monkey (saru, 猿), so people inserted monkeys into the depictions of the teachings.”
If we look at the original painting:
we see the second child (splayed legged) with thumbs in both ears (hear not).
Third child sticking her tongue out (speak not).
What about the first child who’s touching/picking her nose…? Look at her eyes, she has severe amblyopia (lazy eye) (see not). Usually one eye will accommodate for this and take over as primary and the brain learns to discard input from the other, but both eyes look askew in this girl, so I question whether it’s a limited or nearly complete blindness.
In this context, “see not, hear not, speak not” sounds more apt in the original, without the “no evil” additions – the expectation seems to be to disassociate from the reality of the evils surrounding them, or at least to keep it all to themselves.
She is the same artist who has several paintings like this:
People usually describe these as “little people” but the original works clearly display wrinkles and grey heads. I call the series, “Shoving Elderly Into Beakers”, also known, imo, as MAiD or assisted suicide, which is heavily marketed to the old and infirm (and their families/guardians?).
This artist has quite a lot of work, but it’s challenging to find it all in one place. For anyone interested, this is revealing, to me: https://www.artnet.com/artists/lena-cronqvist/3?type=paintings
Look at the pappa series and watch as pappa’s hands roam and the little girl’s dress rides up to expose her nakedness.
There’s these gems:
Not sure what this is about but it’s disturbing (especially if you’ve read about SRA)
and this one, swatting flies, but look what else the giant hand hovers over:
There are a lot more on the website noted above, some which look like big childlike people placing little adult people into small tubs with water, then another painting showing, inexplicably, a completed casserole in a “tub” of the same shape and size. Quite a few small clowns. Or, should you get the chance to tour the European Parliament, you can see some of her works live.