The art and life of artist Yayoi Kusama seem to incarnate all the meanings of the concept of intensity, starting from her extraordinary creative impulse that has moved her to experiment and explore very different ways of making art: from sculpture to installation, from performance to poetry, between the worlds of Pop Art and Surrealism.
She translated her vision of a cosmic and universal energy in artworks with a unique visual language, some of which are currently exhibited at Victoria Miro Gallery in London. The Moving Moment when I Went to the Universe “features new paintings, including works from the iconic My Eternal Soul series, painted bronze pumpkin and flower sculptures, and a large-scale Infinity Mirrored Room,” which challenges the perception of art by pushing the boundaries of the exhibition space.
In her art, intensity materialises in the manner of evocation of the infinite, the eternal, scaled down and transformed into almost living organisms. The shapes, lines, and colours draw out their boundaries, membranes that contain a constant tension between the universal and the very personal. Kusama’s work fights dullness, eliminates banality in any given space, pushing out mundane with the vibrancy of her compositions and installations. Hosting her artworks, the gallery space is transformed, enlisted as an object in the web of creative gestures that go into setting up the exhibition. Their energy and dynamism create enclaves of time and space around these works, which clash with the white, sterile space of the gallery.
Any work of art confined to a gallery space enters, by the nature of the field, a decontextualisation, an uprooting of art from its real context, and repositioning into the artificial setting. Kusama’s works, however, seem to (re)generate their context at all times, bursting with their own histories and memories. The infinite and the universal reveal themselves in the works, renewed in each, yet showing a recognisable energy. For Yayoi Kusama, the idea of the infinite is enclosed in a polka dot, like an atom, or better in their extreme repetition. Through her career she has been covering objects and spaces in vibrant coloured polka dots; phalluses and pumpkins, entire rooms, human bodies and canvases have had their very nature rewired by this act of decoration, an almost restorative effort.
This intensity by accumulation and repetition is not just the result an artistic choice or a philosophical idea but is born of a documented psychological need of the artist to overcome the vehemence of her traumas. At a first glance, personal obsession and cosmic infinity, elements in Kusama’s thematic core, come from two extremes; one, exhausting singular moments or experiences, the other, encompassing timelessness and the unbound. The artist manages to couple the two, creating a variation of a third space, a hybrid that invites and allows the viewers to access their own experience of the infinite.
The Moving Moment when I Went to the Universe is open at Victoria Miro Gallery until December 21st.
Words: Veronica Mafolino
Copy edited by Elena Stanciu