” My friends kept asking me why I kept painting dots and infinity nets. But I never listened to them. I just kept trying to make my own world.”Yayoi Kusama
Have you heard of Yayoi Kusama? I hadn’t, seriously. And it’s not just me, when I mentioned her name to my friends and colleagues there was no reaction. Then, I explained her work a bit, and that rang a bell: “ah, the artist with the dots?”.
But this is how I also knew Yayoi Kusama. I remember having a seen a video, on Facebook or something, about her obsession with dots. Then, I saw a poster about the film and recognised her face. I googled her name and the exhibition at Victoria Miro popped up.
Apparently, she’s insanely popular. The exhibition was almost completely sold out for the whole run, and I barely managed to find a ticket for 4pm during the week. When I walked in, everyone was taking photos, an Instagram sensation.
But Yayoi was not always super successful. Her family disapproved her artistic ambitions, and she left Japan to chase a career in New York. As a woman, and a Japanese woman nonetheless, getting recognition was extremely difficult.
But she never gave up. She would join artistic events, write letters to galleries, insisting that her work should be exhibited, she even went to the Venice Biennale uninvited and created a stunt. Andy Warhol copied her work, and got all the attention she never did. Years later, she was the first woman to represent Japan at the Venice Biennale.
Her life has been a continuous struggle for recognition, but this is not visible in her art.
“(These paintings) are an explosion of ideas and represent my preoccupation with infinity and the search for peace and love which has always been at the heart of my work.”Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi has an almost child-like innocence. You enter a magical world full of colourful lights mirrored, called the Infinity Mirrored Room. You walk in between big pumpkin sculptures covered in dots. You stand next to gigantic blossomed flowers. And finally, the absolute colour explosion.
A room covered with her paintings shouting in joy. Intense blues, oranges, yellows… a rainbow made of tiny abstract shapes. Light-hearted and happy, they reminded me of paintings made by children, and that’s a compliment, we are the most creative at that time.
These paintings are square-shaped, and I really think that this is thought through. Yayoi was a PR queen, and she still is. Her exhibitions are an Instagram heaven, and they get young people standing in lines waiting to get in. That in itself is an astonishing achievement.
Yayoi Kusama: The Moving Moment When I Went to the Universe is on until 21 December at Victoria Miro Gallery. SOLD OUT