Monday, 13 February 2012

Yayoi Kusama

Currently exhibiting at the Tate Modern is a large body of work from the artist Yayoi Kusama that I was luckily enough to have visited. I had entered the exhibition with no prior knowledge of Kusama and was quite unaware of what I was about to experience. I found myself leaving the exhibition quite overwhelmed by the amount of work she had produced and the in a way sad story of her journey.

Yayoi Kusama appears to me a woman consumed by her art, obsessed with creating abstract structres in an attempt to understand and present her world to the public. We see in her early pieces such as the 'Infinity Net' paintings with a repetitive circular gesture that is both obsessive and meditative, demonstrating her technical facility and stamina - characteristics that span her entire body of work. This almost compulsive practise leads onto her 'Compulsion Furniture' works that have a surreal quality, suggesting a 'dreamlike world in which an internal obsession is projected into the physical realm'.

From these works grew her first complete room installation 'Aggregation: One Thousand Boast Show' which fully immerse the viewer into her obsessively charged vision. We later see her 60s collage's using tightly packed accumulations of airmail stickers that with the sheer amount of stickers transforms the recognisable into the realms of the abstract. These obsessive works, with the use of repetitive imagery is powerful on many levels, not only in consideration to the creation of the pieces but mainly of how it reflects Kusama's perception of the world.

Kusama now resides in an hospital due to physical and psychological vulnerability, the piece that gave me more of an understanding of this was 'I'm Here, but Nothing' (2000/2012), a living room space covered in psychedelic dots. This piece made me quite emotional, we see how Kusama is representing her inner world in this installation, it is both fantastical and unsettling. On entering you find your vision impaired by the low lighting, the polka dots feel like interruptions of your own filed of vision making the experience rather disorientating. It's quite wonderful to experience a piece that you feel is so reflective of the artists experience.

One of Kusama's enduring obsessions is the depiction of infinite space, we see in her later works a use of mirrors, especially in her room installations. Kusama creates spaces in which the viewer can see themselves a hundred times over, one in particular that caught my attention was 'Narcissus Garden' (1966). Kusama wrote in relation to this piece "people seem enthralled as they see themselves 1500 times... when people see their own reflection multiplied to infinity they then sense that there is no limit to man's ability to project into endless space" - a idea that is both exhilarating as well as overwhelming. An installation that is recreated within the exhibition that reflects similar notions is 'Infinity Mirrored Room - Filled with the Brilliance of Life', which I have to admit was one of my favourite pieces. It is a mirrored room with what feels like a cosmos of lights, that left me with a feeling of joy and wonder. A real treat to end an exhibition with. I would recommend a visit if you have the time, I would admit to not understanding or relating to all Kusama's pieces, but she has an intriguing vision that is unique and captivating that makes the exhibition a worthwhile trip.

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