OF POLKA DOTS AND PUMPKINS

Published on 7 June 2017

The well-loved works of avant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama will be exhibited at National Gallery Singapore from 9 June to 3 September 2017. Here’s a guide on how you can get the most out of your “YAYOI KUSAMA: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow” experience.

By MELANIE LEE

UNDERSTANDING KUSAMA

Song of a Manhattan Suicide Addict (2010), Collection of the Artist ©YAYOI KUSAMA, Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore, David Zwirner, New York

The best way to appreciate art is to gain a better understanding of the artist. This is especially so for Kusama’s work, which is generally known for being bright, cheery and universally appealing. It is easy for us to enjoy her work at face value, but it is much more meaningful to view this iconic 88-year-old’s art with a better understanding of her life. For example, Kusama’s fascination with pumpkins (as seen with her 1981 sculpture, ‘Pumpkin’) has started since her days as an art school student because her family owned a nursey and grew a field of pumpkins. She has described pumpkins as having a “generous unpretentiousness” and a “solid spiritual balance”. Tip: At the exhibition, do keep a look out for her video installation ‘Song of a Manhattan Suicide Addict’ (2010) where she recites a poem that reveals her worldview and her experience with depression.

TRIPPY KUSAMA

With All My Love for the Tulips, I Pray Forever (2013), Collection of the Artist ©YAYOI KUSAMA, Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore,Victoria Miro Gallery, London, David Zwirner, New York

While Kusama has produced art in a variety of media, it’s her mind-bending installations that provide the most intense experiences. Entering ‘The Infinity Mirrored Room – Gleaming Lights of the Souls’ (2008) provides a spectacular kaleidoscopic experience that makes you feel you’re suspended within an infinite realm. Meanwhile, ‘With All My Love for the Tulips’ (2013) is a zany polka-dotted room that mirror hallucinations that she experienced as a child. The camouflaged tulip structures within this room also tie in with her concept of self-obliteration: a belief that losing one’s ego is the way to peace.

TAKING PHOTO BREAKS

Selections from Kusama's 'My Eternal Soul' (ongoing series), Collection of the Artist ©YAYOI KUSAMA, Courtesy of National Gallery Singapore

There’s no doubt that Kusama’s work are Instagrammable. However, it is also work that is best appreciated with our full attention in real life. Once in a while, take a break from your camera or smartphone! For one, the psychedelic peep room ‘I Want to Love on the Festival Night’ (2017) is best experienced just by sticking your head (and not your camera) in and surreally watching multiple self-reflections blink back at you. Likewise, the large biomorphic paintings from her ongoing ‘My Eternal Soul’ series are best taken in with your own eyes to truly capture the scale of these breathtaking pieces.

EATING AND SHOPPING KUSAMA

Credit: Gallery & Co.

Gallery & Co., the trendy retail and F&B space at National Gallery Singapore, has created a series of dotty Kusama merchandise in conjunction with the exhibition. We especially like the enamel bowls and cups which give a bit of a local touch. There’s also Kusama-inspired food served at their café – treat yourself to the adorable Pumpkin-inspired dessert!

YAYOI KUSAMA: Life is the Heart of the Rainbow will be held at National Gallery Singapore from 9 June – 3 September 2017. Timed-entry tickets are issued for this special exhibition, so you are recommended to pre-order them online and collect them from the ticketing counter. Click here for more information

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