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Yayoi Kusama: THE MOVING MOMENT WHEN I WENT TO THE UNIVERSE

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Yayoi Kusama 'THE MOVING MOMENT WHEN I WENT TO THE UNIVERSE' at Victoria Miro Gallery

Image: Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai and Victoria Miro, London/Venice

It was World Mental Health Day on 10th October 2018, and it felt fitting to mark the event by going to see the new Yayoi Kusama exhibition 'The Moving Moment When I Went to the Universe' at Victoria Miro gallery in Wharf London. 

Kusama once told The Observer: "Long ago, I decided that all I could do was express my thoughts through my art and that I would continue to do this until I died, even if no one was ever to see my work. Today, I never forget that my art works have moved millions of people all around the world."

Yayoi Kusama at Victoria Miro art gallery in London

Image: Postcards Home

Yayoi Kusama is our mental health hero - she shows the world that everyone's mental health is complex and fragile, and the way we choose to navigate the world to maintain our own delicate state of balance is always so personal and precious.

At almost 90, Kusama has lived voluntarily in a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo since 1977, and she uses her creativity to process her own experience of the world. Her work makes people smile, stare and selfie away with it's playful patterns and bright colours. We are all drawn to her kaleidoscopic polka-dot-filled fantasy world, but once we are there, the depth of its meaning becomes encompassing in both a comforting and challenging way. All at once we lose ourselves and find ourselves in her work. 

Yayoi Kusama Painting, Victoria Miro Gallery

Image: Postcards Home

Yayoi Kusama is the world's top-selling living female artist and the (unwitting) artist of choice for the Instagram generation. Kusama's work has been hashtagged more than 300,000 times, with celebrities like Katy Perry seeking out one of her Infinity Mirrored Rooms for a selfie and Adele performing within one in 2016.

This latest immersive exhibition at Victoria Miro gallery is open from 3 October - 21 December but sold out in an instance. So let us transport you around it via our snaps and thoughts in case you didn't manage to nab a ticket, because it really is something special.

Yayoi Kusama Pumpkins at Victoria Miro gallery, London

Image: Postcards Home

Three bronze pumpkin sculptures painted red, yellow and green greet you as you enter the gallery space. The repeated pattern of dots on the pumpkins are connotations of growth and fertility. They pulsate with energy as the tapering pattern of black dots bounces around.

The artist's family had a plant nursery in Matsumoto, Japan and there were squash in the fields that surrounded Kusama's childhood home. The pumpkin is a signature motif of Kusama’s: "Pumpkins have been a great comfort to me since my childhood; they speak to me of the joy of living. They are humble and amusing at the same time, and I have and always will celebrate them in my art."

Yayoi Kusama My Eternal Soul Paintings, Victoria Miro gallery London

Image: Postcards Home

The show also includes paintings from the artist’s ongoing series 'My Eternal Soul Paintings', depicting forms that resemble eyes, faces, dots and biological cells - to offer impressions of the world in both microscopic and macroscopic detail. As you look closer at each one individually you start to be reminded of ancient landscapes, geological patterns and cosmic infinity presented using cheerful colours and playful patterns. 

"These paintings join all the philosophies of my art. They 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, Flowers that speak all about my heart given to the sky, Victoria Miro, London

Image: Postcards Home

The exterior patio at Victoria Miro is dominated by bronze sculptures of flowers in Kusama's signature bold palette, covered in colourful dots, called 'Flowers That Speak All About My Heart Given to The Sky'. Like so much of Kusama's art, they sit somewhere between nature and joyful artifice. They are simple stemmed flowers made brighter and bigger - to be walked around and viewed from different angles. 

When Kusama was 10 years old, she began to experience vivid and terrifying hallucinations of light auras and dense fields of dots that left her "dazzled and dumbfounded". And, on occasion, the flowers in the fields near her home would talk to her. “I was surrounded by so many flowers. When I looked around, I saw the flowers everywhere. It was this sense of being obliterated by the flowers,” she said of her experience. Dots and flowers infiltrate every corner of her work.

Infinity Mirrored Room from Yayoi Kusama

Image: Postcards Home

Kusama is famed for her Infinity Mirrored Rooms and one such, 'My Heart is Dancing into the Universe', now forms the centrepiece of this exhibition. It’s a space lined entirely with mirrors, save for a short walkway, and filled with big and small paper lanterns engulfing the space. They pulsate with various colours; a few gently rotate as if alive and floating through this small universe.

You have only one minute to take in your surroundings, time seems to stop whilst you do. It's a captivating, beautiful, disorientating and fleeting experience, which is exactly the point, to reduce ourselves down in reflection and duplication into sheer insignificance. We see ourselves again and again, smaller and smaller in the room.

Infinity Room, Yayoi Kusama

Image: Postcards Home

Self-obliteration is a big theme in Kusama's work. It all goes back to her traumatic childhood, and her feelings of isolation being a woman of colour in the commercial art world of the 1960s, which was largely dominated by white male artists. 

No matter how many selfies you take in the Infinity Mirrored Room, the joke's on you. When we take a photo of ourself in there and post it online, we have just duplicated ourselves again and again, and diluted our significance. We are, as Kusama intended, a speck in the infinite universe. 

When asked what her manifesto consists of, Kusama always answers with the same idea: “I hope that the power of art can make the world more peaceful.” 

Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkins, Victoria Miro gallery London

Image: Postcards Home

Although tickets to the exhibition are sold out, it coincides with the UK release of a film about the artist’s life, entitled Kusama-Infinity (from 5 October) which charts Kusama’s career from her time in New York dating from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, and her return to Japan in 1973. And you can buy it on iTunes here.


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