I discovered this artist’s artwork in 2016 in London and I was mesmerized both by her unique personality and her artistic creations. Yayoi Kusama is back in London this summer and I was lucky enough to see the two exhibitions currently showcasing her amazing work: one at Tate Modern & the other at the Victoria Miro Gallery. These are definitely not to be missed (and quite fun for kids too)!
Today, DOYOUSPEAKLONDON dives into Yayoi Kusama’s mesmerizing artistic creations!
Yayoi Kusama in 8 facts
1. Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese contemporary artist born in 1929 (yep she is still active and quite prolific even at 92 years old!).
2. Her childhood was not very happy with a mother unsupportive to her art inclination (and known to have destroyed some of Kusama’s early creations) and a womanizer father she was asked to spy on by her mother. These sad early years certainly had a consequence on Kusama’s art: she’s always been very obsessive about art and always created at a frenetic pace; also sex is a recurrent theme in her work.
3. Yayoi Kusama’s mental health is to be related to her art. She suffers from visual hallucinations and claims to have been haunted by them since her childhood. She mentioned in 2012 how art had been therapy for her.
“I fight pain, anxiety, and fear every day, and the only method I have found that relieved my illness is to keep creating art. I followed the thread of art and somehow discovered a path that would allow me to live”
4. Yayoi Kusama mainly works in sculpture and installation, but she is also creative in painting, performance, film, fashion, poetry, fiction, and other forms of art. Quite an extensive collection of art to discover!
5. She is now famous for the abstract natural forms she paints in watercolor, gouache, and oil paint, primarily on paper. She began covering all surfaces with the polka dots she took from her hallucinations (or “infinity nets”, as she called them), which are now a trademark of her work.
6. Apart from Japan, Yayoi Kusama lived in the United States and worked with some of the greatest artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, who she asked for advice when she was starting out with her career, and Andy Warhol whom she was a good friend until she thought he stole her ideas!
7. Yayoi Kusama has also a passion for pumpkins! Why? As she said in 2015:
“I love pumpkins because of their humorous form, warm feeling, and a human-like quality and form. My desire to create works of pumpkins still continues. I have enthusiasm as if I were still a child.”
8. In the late 1960s Yayoi Kusama launched her own fashion brand in New York with pieces showing strategically cut holes in intimate places, representing her signature polka-dot motif. All her artworks can be seen as a rebellion against the Japanese society that she considered “too small, too servile, too feudalistic, and too scornful of women”.
Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms, Tate Modern
In addition to presenting a few facts about the artist and showcasing a few pictures of Yayoi Kusama surrounded by her pieces of art, The Tate gives us the opportunity to experience two of Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirror Rooms.”
This is quite simple: you immerse yourself in Kusama’s installations to experience her unique vision of endless reflections, due to the mirrors she puts on walls. Every step you take makes your perception of this space change, it’s like floating in an ever-evolving environment. The whole family loved it!
The first installation presents the Chandelier of Grief, with a stunning rotating Swarovski crystal chandelier, which creates the illusion of being in an endless space with glittering lights.
This is quite extraordinary as the darkness creates a mystical atmosphere. Regarding the “grief” mentioned in its title, my kids did not quite agree; they found this experience “very cool” and they were asking for more!
In the second “Infinity Mirror Room” we were moving along a reflective walkway over a shallow pool. We were surrounded by tiny dots of lights reflecting in the water and mirrors endlessly with alternating colours.
It was such a marvelous space! Sometimes you can lose the notion of grounds and space, and that’s why you must stick to the path to guide you.
In both rooms, we had a family time as a maximum of 4 or 5 people were allowed at the same time. It was a luxury we truly appreciated (and queuing was not too long nor boring as we read in advance the description of each room).
Kusama at the Victoria Miro Gallery
Victoria Miro Gallery is located near Angel tube station in east London. This is where I discovered Yayoi Kusama in 2016.
In this exhibition, I saw a few pumpkins and Kusama’s famous dots…
The exterior part of the exhibition showcases a few big-sized pumpkins of different colours.
As the sun came in, I could admire the textures and colours of these creations…Don’t you like these giant pumpkins too?
In the room inside were exposed Kusama’s paintings, with vivid colours and squared representations of her mind’s visions.
I enjoyed the global effect of these homogenous paintings, each different but coherent all together.
There were also a few sculptures presented in the middle of the room, with similar patterns.
These two exhibitions are complementary and give a perfect illustration of Yayoi Kusama’s work.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and found inspiration here. If you have been able to see these exhibitions or are about to, please share your experience and opinion on DOYOUSPEAKLONDON’s blog!
To go further:
Tate Modern website
“Infinity mirrors rooms” until September 2021 (free for members)
It was said that this exhibition was running until September. As tickets were selling fast, The Tate opened new slots recently so check out their website to know if you have any chance of visiting it.
Victoria Miro Gallery website
“I want your tears to flow with the words I wrote” until 31 July 2021 (Free exhibition)