How To Lose Yourself With Ms Yayoi Kusama
Photograph by Lauren Luxenberg
The elaborate patterns of the octogenarian Japanese artist are worthy of your extended attention, but be prepared for an intense experience.
Ms Yayoi Kusama is obviously doing something right. Her exuberant, gleefully repetitive artworks, which typically incorporate dense arrays of dots, giant pumpkins and mirrors (or a combination of all three), saw her draw more visitors to her shows than any other artist in the world in 2014, according to a report by The Art Newspaper. Which, we suppose, means that she is now the gallerist’s equivalent of a Mr Tom Cruise or Mr Leonardo DiCaprio – a bona fide crowd-pleaser. In recognition of this fact, this summer her longtime London dealer Ms Victoria Miro has granted Ms Kusama a suitably blockbuster showcase across her two exhibition spaces in Islington and Mayfair, open from now until 30 July.
“The Heart The Flew To The Sky” (2016) by Ms Yayoi Kusama. Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of KUSAMA Enterprise, Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore and Victoria Miro, London. © Ms Yayoi Kusama
For those who might have missed Ms Kusama’s work from the 1950s until now (she turned 87 this year), don't worry too much about catching up. Because since the beginning of her career, the artist has been preoccupied with what is essentially the same topic: a bewildering series of geometric hallucinations she experienced in childhood, which manifest in the dense dots, swirls, spirals and triangles (“infinity nets”) that feature in her works. But for seasoned experts of Ms Kusama, the Victoria Miro show offers the chance to see a large number of new paintings, sculptures and installations from 2015 and 2016. These include canvases from the “My Eternal Soul” series, which fill the Mayfair space, and in Islington three new immersive mirror boxes: “Chandelier Of Grief”, “Where The Lights In My Heart Go” and “All The Eternal Love I Have For Pumpkins”. (The lattermost, a mirrored cubicle densely packed with glowing yellow pumpkin lamps, is the first such work she has shown since 1992.)
“All the Eternal Love I Have For The Pumpkins” (2016) by Ms Yayoi Kusama. Mirror room with pumpkin lamps. Photograph by Ms Noriko Takasugi, courtesy KUSAMA Enterprise, Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore and Victoria Miro, London. © Ms Yayoi Kusama
Ms Kusama’s ideas about “active self-obliteration” through the obsessive density and repetition of her favourite motifs are key to all these works, whether it’s in the close-packed swirls of her paintings or the infinite reflections a visitor experiences by stepping inside one of the dizzying mirror boxes. If that sounds a little uncomfortable, be assured of the opposite – losing oneself in these surreal, absorbing works is nothing but a pleasure. And if it all makes you feel a little bit giddy, there are plenty of nice pubs round the corner.