For a number of years, Aiko Robinson’s practice has been intimately - pun intended! - concerned with portraying sexuality and sexual acts as a natural part of everyday life, and as something to be explored without fear or shame. When the Flowers Bloom presents large scale works on this central theme but also sees Robinson push her creative practice in new directions.
One of the effects Robinson hopes her artworks will have on people is to encourage open discussion about sex. She draws upon the tradition of Japanese shunga (erotica), which flourished in the Edo period (1603 - 1867) and celebrated a range of sexual proclivities. The artform was not considered obscene or shameful and was enjoyed by people across class and gender. (1)
Secret Whisperings From the Rose Garden brings the erotic into the open (air). Full-blown roses flaunt dishevelled petals and blushing centres, and the same blush colours the tensed feet and furled buds.The finely balanced composition uses intrictate patterning of textiles and flora as a foil for Robinson’s spare, elegant linework. Amongst such profusion, we note the bared flesh on display almost as an afterthought.
When the Flowers Bloom #1 and #2 delight in the exuberance of summer flowering - designed, of course, to maximise pollination and the reproductive success of the plant. Robinson’s delight in these displays is seen in her obsessive attention to drawn detail. This is matched with a measured use of the watercolour medium, which allows colours to flush subtly across single blooms, leaves, and petals.
Watercolour was also the artist’s choice for Figure Study #1 and Figure Study #2. These are significant developments and departures from Robinson’s customary oeuvre and reveal an artist sufficiently confident in her practice to be able to push its boundaries. Robinson has loosened the tight control seen in her drawing and printmaking and has allowed herself to work with a more fluid touch.
A defining feature of Robinson's style has always been her concise linework. Whispers of this can be found in the Figure Study paintings, but the artist intentionally holds herself back from the sharp outlines she is most used to. She does not, however, resile fully from the humour and visual punning that are integral to her shunga-inspired artworks: the subject matter, fleshy fruits and protruding stalks remain suggestively euphemistic.
Quite possibly for the first time bananas make their presence known in one of Robinson’s works. The artist says “As a rule I don’t draw bananas”, (2) calling them too obvious an image. The explanation that follows however, is relevant not only to a single painting, but to the creative tangents Robinson is travelling along in Where the Flowers Bloom:
“Recently I have been experimenting with new subjects that relate to the body. I decided to challenge myself by drawing a banana as a way of relaxing my own rules and restrictions. I think it turned out nicely.” (3)
Aiko Robinson’s decision to deliberately step outside her comfort zone will result in new ways of seeing and working, and will enrich her practice. Like her bananas, we are positive that it will turn out nicely.