On 10th June 10, the National Gallery in Singapore opened “Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow” to a very excited and eager crowd. It is the first major exhibit of her work in South East Asia and, not surprisingly, many of us went to see it over the first weekend. Who wouldn’t be excited for a few hours of inspiration and immersive fun?
We journeyed with Kusama across 120 works of art across several galleries. We saw her growth as an artist through the varied collection paintings, sculptures, installations and videos of performance art.
Dots and repeated patterns have always been synonymous with Kusama. They have been a clear motif for this influential artist even in her earlier years.
As you move to the next phase of her life, you can see how her obsession for repeated patterns grows. The large scale pieces in “Infinity Nets” are seemingly simple, but a closer look reveals the layers, meticulousness, restraint and patience of and in her work.
A homage to the pumpkin farms that fed her and her family as she grew up post WWII, her iconic pumpkins could be experienced through a few mediums. The classic yellow and blacks were featured on paintings, but also in a 2-in-1 immersive exhibit. The first was a yellow room covered in black polka dots with a full-sized dual-mirrored cube sitting in the centre. The second was an infinite repeat of pumpkins seen through the mirrored inside of a cube.
“Invisible Life”, a small labyrinth filled with round convex mirrors, was lots of fun to walk through as you made your way towards another installation highlight, “Infinity Mirrored Room – Gleaming Lights of Souls”. Again, both literally immersed you in a different world of repeated dots.
Other special mentions included larger-than-life potted and dotted tulips, another mirrored cube where you could immerse yourself in crazy changing light patterns, and 2 rooms filled from floor to ceiling with massive canvases. The paintings featured here reflect again on her relationship with repeated patterns; one room in black and white, and another in full colour.
The exhibit’s finale was “Narcissus Garden”; a large room sprawling with 1,500 reflective steel balls, loosely planted on the wooden floor.
Kusama’s exhibits draw record-breaking crowds and have flooded the internet with millions of Instagram-worthy selfies. Having seen it for ourselves, it’s not hard to see why she is still relevant today. The detail and effort that goes into her craft is astounding. She has a point of view that cuts through all of her work and, most importantly, it always inspires joy in anyone who sees it.
The exhibition is open until 3rd September – you can find out more here.
Special thanks to Alice, Hieu and Mafalda for the extra photos.