Almost a year into her two-year Master’s programme at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts, Aiko Robinson’s printmaking practice is looking back into the future. Her unique take on Japanese shunga combines with traditional woodblock printing, natural dyes, and handmade paper; the muted colours and textured surface provide an initial sense of age which is belied by Robinson’s decidedly modern take on sexuality.
The slow reveal is an intrinsic element of Robinson’s works and the way in which she constructs her prints and drawings are essential to creating levels of recognition for the viewer. The incredibly fine detail of the works draws the viewer in and the realisation is not immediate that they are looking at depictions of sexually explicit activity amongst the pine needles, blossoms, and textile folds. For this same reason, Robinson draws her actors without heads. Any suggestion of a face immediately signals the presence of a person, the absence of this defining feature delays identification (and gratification). This allows the eroticism of the subject matter to dawn slowly for the viewer.
Visually suggestive motifs such as orchids, clams and mushrooms abound in Robinson’s works, as do English-language puns and allusions concerning birds and bees, shuttlecocks, and shags. Humour is a feature of historical shunga and the use of deliberate linguistic and visual puns underscore the enjoyment of the sexual act. There is no shame or prudery attached to the variety of sexual activities depicted in Aiko Robinson’s works; they are celebrations of sexuality.