Aiko Robinson is a New Zealand, Christchurch born artist of Japanese and New Zealand heritage. She graduated from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland in 2014. Currently she is based in Tokyo, Japan undertaking her masters at Tokyo University of the Arts on a Japanese Government funded scholarship (MEXT Scholarship). Her artwork is a response to Shunga (‘spring pictures’), a form of pornography that flourished in Japan during the Edo period between the 17th and 19th centuries. Historical Shunga reflects the acceptance or celebration of sex in Shinto culture, and values love, mutual pleasure and equality between sexual partners. Shunga is also positively associated with Spring as it addresses themes of fertility and new life. Aiko’s artworks evoke the idealised visions of the Shunga artist with an interest in how they might compare to prevailing ideas regarding pornography in contemporary society.
A reoccurring theme and signature feature of Aiko’s work is headless figures engaging in erotic acts. This headlessness effectively obscures the image, allowing the sexual content to remain temporarily hidden in plain sight. It allows the viewer to focus on the body and cloth as a flowing unity.
The bodies Aiko illustrate engage in sexual acts but are incapable to see, hear, and enjoy sexual fantasies due to the lack of a head and therefore a mind of their own. These ideas have been further explored in the titles of many of her works, which draw from the use of puns and humour in Japanese literature and Warai-e (another common name for Japanese erotic art, which literally translates to “Laughing pictures”). Head over heels, Love is blind and Losing my mind are all examples of titles she has selected for her work. They suggest notions of love while also hinting towards the physical form of her figures.
After graduating from Elam School of Fine Arts Aiko was chosen as the inaugural recipient of the Auckland Print Studio Prize. The Auckland Print Studio Prize is a residency at APS which enables the recipient to produce a suite of original, limited edition prints in collaboration with the printers at APS. In June 2015 she had two solo exhibitions, one with PG Gallery 192 in Christchurch where she showed her graduate work, and the other with Fox Jensen Gallery where she showed her works created during her residency with APS. Since then she has had solo exhibitons at PG Gallery 192, Christchurch and Fox Jensen Gallery, Auckland, Solander Gallery, Wellington, Milford Galleries, Dunedin. She has been involved in several group shows at these galleries as well as Seed Gallery, Auckland, Gus Fisher Gallery, Auckland, Marueido Fine Art Gallery Japan, Tokyo, Bumpodo Gallery, Tokyo and Soumeido Gallery, Tokyo. Through her representation with Lans Gallery, Hong Kong she has also exhibited at Art Fairs such as the Hong Kong Affordable Art Fair 2016 and Asia Contemporary 2016. In July 2016 she was involved in the group show “Last Judgement”, hosted by PG Gallery 192. In this exhibition Aiko began exploring themes of death and spirits in Japanese tradition. She considers these themes integral to the themes of sex, or in a grander sense, life and has continued to experiment with these themes in her joint show with emerging artist Grace Wright at PG Gallery 192 early February 2017. In April 2017 she moved to Tokyo to extend her studies at Tokyo University of the Arts, while she continued exhibitions in New Zealand and represented by Solander gallery showed at Sydney Contemporary Art Fair. After completing one year as a research student she was accepted in the masters program.