Yayoi Kusama: obsessive art

While in London back in June, I had the chance to catch the exhibition on Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.

This exhibition included new sculptures, paintings and mirror room installations, visible at the Victoria Miro galleries I and II and Waterside Garden.
I didn’t know a thing about her art but was very surprised to learn about her fascination for pumpkins. I had never seen anything like it. And in this day and age of art being such an unbelievably tortured and complicated hodgepodge, I found her work refreshing.
So I decided to check out what her world was all about.

Beyond the diversity of forms and techniques she uses, there is a large palette of vivid colors and a reverie that exudes from so many paintings and visual installations.

IMG_7053.JPGSpeaking of visual installations, I was most impressed by the three mirror rooms she created at the Wharf Road Galleries.

I first entered in the “Where the Lights in my heart go” room, which was located on the gallery’s terrace. This installation recreated what seems to be a small planetarium. It was like watching the stars on a beautiful dark night of summer.

Then, I got inside the “Chandelier of Grief” room. And what a remarkable view I had. So you access it through a small door operated by one hostess who also timed the experience.Once inside what seems to be a round room, you can distinguish giant chunks of mirrors on the walls and the ceiling. And in the middle is a huge column made of one-way mirror, and inside it, hangs a giant chandelier. Then while going around the room you can see the lightning choreography and optical game. And I have to admit I was caught in by the game of perspectives and reflections. It was like being a kid again, discovering how mirrored room works, swirling around before ending up dizzy and confused by the lights. I must say as simple as this installation can seem, it is quite the visual experience and a very effective one. Too bad you can’t stay there for long. I think I was inside for probably a minute or so.

IMG_7061.JPGAnd finally I went inside the “Pumpkin’s infinity mirrored room” in the first floor of the gallery. And what a dream setting it was. This was actually the second mirror pumpkin room Kusama created in her career. Her first one was back in 1991 and first shown at the 45th Venice Biennale in 1993.

So as you enter the space, you are faced with a giant mirror going around the room. All along the room, and at your feet are a plethora of pumpkins of different sizes. And as always there is a third dimension to this piece: the glass ceiling, which completes the experience.
Standing there, surrounded by those yellow pumpkins and their reflections, I was very impressed by the color tones and the sensation of plenty coming from the game of mirrors.

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But I also got the chance to see the “Narcissus Garden” which was outside, on the canal next to the terrace of the Victoria Miro Gallery. I actually got lucky because the weather was about to go south, like it is always the case in London. Yayoi Kusama actually first created this installation for the 33rd Venice Biennale in 1966.
It is consisting of 1300 steel spheres floating in the artificial lake, giving the impression of a live ballet performance. Also, while drifting, it seems like their color changes, ranging from light to darker shades of grey. Their mirrored surface reflects their surroundings.      It is a very poetic scenery with the plants in the water and all around the installation.

IMG_7017These three installations where the best part of the exhibition for me because they gave a sense of immersion into Kusama’s world and vision of her art.
As far as the paintings go, I liked their presence for they showed the artist’s diversity of skills but I would have more appreciation for them if they weren’t completely separated from the rest of the artworks. The whole exhibition lacked of cohesion and explanations. I would have liked to know how Kusama approaches each medium and subject; and in what way it affects her artistry.

IMG_7050.JPGThe Artist : In brief

  • D.O.B.: March, 22 1929 in Matsumoto, in Nagano Prefecture, Japan
  • Occupations: Sculptor, Painter and Novelist.
  • Techniques: Painting, Collage, Scat sculpture, performance art, environmental installations.
  • Artistry: Minimalist, Pop Art, Psychedelic art, Conceptual art.
  • Work samples: “The Hustlers Grotto of Christopher Street » (1983, novel); “Narcissus Garden” (Life size installation) ; Infinity Mirror Room (1965); Infinity Net Yellow (1960); Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Penguin Classics, 2012 (illustration work)
  • Website: http://www.yayoi-kusama.jp
  • Full Bio here: http://www.yayoi-kusama.jp/e/biography/index.html

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