Be Visually Stimulated By "Yayoi Kusama: Life Is The Heart of A Rainbow" Exhibition At The National Gallery of Singapore
Titled ‘Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow’, it’s the first large-scale retrospective of her works in South-East Asia from the 1950s to present. To date, Kusama has amassed a vast body of work that cuts across different disciplines – filmmaking, painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, fashion, poetry, fiction and public spectacles. You might have noticed the rows of trees decorated in numerous red dots in Orchard, or visited the dotty concept store of Louis Vuitton in the past years. Yes, they are all artwork inspired by the famous Japanese artist named Yayoi Kusama.
Yayoi Kusama, the Japanese avant garde, is one of the world’s most influential artists who still lives today in Japan. Winning admirers around the world, she is best known for her signature use of polka dots as patterns and textures. Apparently, Yayoi Kusama’s works have been influenced by her nightmarish hallucinations and psychological trauma when she was young. It is said that she was born in a problematic family where her father had affairs and her mother never appreciated her artworks. She has been suffering from hallucinations since young and claimed that animals would talk to her now and then. As what she said, “if it were not for art, I would have killed myself long ago”. In some sense according to her, it is exactly those mental difficulties that “give her a generating and inspiring force for art”. Even now at the age of 88, she continues to paint.
Here are some of my personal takeaways from the exhibition, so that you’ll know what to expect when you head down (if you haven't already done so).
There are four gallery rooms to visit in total, and each charts Kusama’s artistic journey. You can visit them in any order you like. An usher told me that I can only be admitted into each gallery once. Let's delve into the world of pumpkins, dots, kaleidoscopic colours and infinite possibilities at the National Gallery of Singapore.
Upon entering the museum, visitors will be welcomed by the famous dots on the huge balloons. Yayoi Kusama is most famously known for her obsession with polka dots. Enter her art world and you’ll be overwhelmed by repetitive dots - a reflection of the hallucinations. She has since incorporated them as a strong motif in all of her works.
"Mirror Room (Pumpkin)" - What looked like dots, were in fact small loops drawn over a plain background, resulting in a rather hypnotizing effect.
As I exited Gallery A to move to Gallery B, I was greeted by 2 sculptures of sorts of the speckled pumpkin consisting of reflective coloured tiles. Pumpkins comfort Yayoi Kusama, whose family owns a nursery which grew the vegetable.
"Invisible Life" - This room features round reflective ‘mirrors’ on walls and ceilings like a semi-claustrophobic maze. Each mirror resembles those traffic convex mirrors in car parks.
A kaleidoscopic room with dazzling lights and mirrors, you’ll feel as if you were suspended in a galaxy of stars. You get 20 seconds in this tiny dizzying room that, rather than claustrophobia, will evoke wonder and all sorts of trippy-ness that you'll never wanna leave. But, well, you'll have to anyway.
This gallery features her extensive canvas work including Love Forever in monochrome and vibrant colours in My Eternal Soul. Her happy thoughts and fear of emptiness are reflected in her canvas works.
A room filled with sculptures and paintings from Kusama's "My Eternal Soul" series
Surrounded by the Love Forever canvases, this mirror peepbox cycles through trippy light patters, and unlike the other two mirror installations, there are other openings to view.
There is also a famous polka dotted tulip installation "With All My Love for the Tulips, I Pray Forever" which stems from her hallucinations, and the concept of self-obliteration with tulips blending into white.
A personal favourite of mine would be the Narcissus Garden, where 1500 stainless steel balls are placed on the floors as landscape art. It’s a clever piece that casts a meta-commentary on narcissism in today’s society by gazing into a ball, the viewer only sees a distorted reflection staring back, forcing a confrontation with one's own vanity and ego. And yet, ironically, droves of people are seen taking selfies and posing with these silver globes.
However, the impact of this work wouldn’t be achieved without the impressive and awe-inducing architecture of the City Hall Chamber it was curated in. Towering marble pillars, chandeliers and narcissism? Sounds so fitting. Truly, manoeuvring through this exhaustive exhibition was a seamless and engaging experience with its careful curation and appropriate spaces.
Don’t even think of nicking any of these 1,500 stainless steel balls as a souvenir - each one is secured to the ground by a rubber contraption.
The Obliteration Room is arguably one of Yayoi Kusama’s most famous installations to date (mainly due to its immersive and interactive nature) and has been a mainstay in nearly every exhibition. Displayed as part of Gallery Children’s Biennale: Dreams & Stories, visitors can donate $2 for a sheet of bright colourful stickers to stick all over a white living room, fully equipped with ornamentation and furniture. Yayoi Kusama calls this process “obliteration”, which means the complete destruction of every trace of something. Pls join in and have fun!
Yayoi Kusama’s interactive art seems to be taking over our social media platforms, one polka dotted room at a time. More than just visual wonders, these globally-revered pieces are meaningful with stories that reflect Yayoi Kusama’s philosophy and discipline – an astute (and slightly disturbing) look into the mind of this maverick. The exhibition runs from 9th June till 3rd September 2017. If you haven't catch Yayoi Kusama's "Life is the Heart of a Rainbow" exhibition , why not? Yayoi Kusama inspires a kind of fan mania that’s rare for today’s contemporary art scene. You'll be visually stimulated and enthralled by the engaging artworks of Yayoi Kusama !