japanese artwork on kitty symington's final year essay

Graduates 2020: Kitty Symington: History of Art and Design

“I’ve always been fascinated by the culture that produced the beautiful prints of 18th century Japan, so choosing Japanese prints as my area of study for my dissertation wasn’t hard.”

Hi Kitty, tell us a bit about your work

Once I had started researching, I became entrapped in the fascinating world of decadence, leisure and beauty of this era in Japan. However, I also began to understand and uncover the dark realities of the time, especially of the lives of female sex workers. Hidden behind the lavish beauty of these prints lies androcentric gender roles, but additionally, the significance of the notion of femininity in the culture. Many art historians appreciate 18th century Japanese prints as pieces of artwork, normally comparable to Western art, however, my work focuses on how prints were instead poster-like productions, mass-produced in order to publicise and market the sex districts, and the female workers within them, and/or the latest fashions of the time. Studying a culture from a country that lies on the opposite side of the world, and that one has never been to, can understandably have it’s drawbacks and difficulties. For example, many of the texts I would have liked to study are only accessible in the Japanese language, and experiencing prints first-hand is limited. However, I was able to find a few of the prints I needed in the archives at the V&A, early on in the research. This allowed me to get an understanding of the proportions, weight and texture of the prints, as well as the process and materials used for production.

How have you found studying at Brighton?

I have adored my time in Brighton. I am a creatively driven person, so the city offers a lot of inspiration for a person like me. Not to mention, I am forever drawn to locations by the sea. My course is small, and, without attempting to sound too corny, family-like. The support between fellow students, especially in our final year, has been admirable, and I thank all my lovely course mates for ensuring that my time here has been as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.

What are your plans for the future?

Obviously, with a recession on the not-so-far-away horizon, being a graduate this year is not going to be easy for any of us. With the knowledge that jobs in this country are going to be few and far between in the next year, however, I have decided to look elsewhere in the world. If all things go according to plan, and a second spike of coronavirus doesn’t sweep across the country, I should be able to jet off to Zambia for a job working in a safari lodge. I’ll have to hope that people have enough money not to cancel their safari holidays, and pluck up the courage to combat some gigantic spiders.!

Follow Kitty on Instagram at @kittys.illustrations


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