In Pics: Exploring the dotty, eccentric world of Yayoi Kusama

Photos and story by Raphael Koh, editing by Ilyas Sholihyn

With her signature dots and nets motif, Yayoi Kusama’s exhibition Life is the Heart of a Rainbow has drawn huge crowds since it kicked off at the National Gallery Singapore last week.

Considered by many as one of the most influential modern artists of today, many of her works have been displayed at prestigious galleries such as MoMA in New York and the Tate Modern in London. Even at the ripe old age of 88, the Japanese artist continues to churn out critically-acclaimed sculptures and installation art that explore the abstract and avant-garde.

Her latest body of work includes a cluster of soft sculptures and several paintings from her ongoing My Eternal Soul series — all of which are on display here for the first time ever.

Now that the artist has chosen Singapore to make her first major showcase in Southeast Asia, we took a closer look to check out her over 120 works, including new, never-seen-before pieces.

In the Infinity Mirrored Room, feel free to spend 30 seconds by yourself in complete silence to immerse yourself in her trippy creation while surrounded by mirrors and colourful flashes of light that change colours in two-second intervals.

To get even more into the psychedelic vibes, there’re also “peep boxes” (enclosed installations that you can poke your head into) to lose yourselves in more of her intricate pieces.

Among others are collection of exhibits ranging across different media from paintings, sculptures, collages and video to large-scale installations. Like this walkway full of mirrors, for instance.

Kusama regularly includes flowers in her art and this installation titled With All My Love for the Tulips encapsulates the affinity she has with flowers since childhood. Flower sculptures blend in a room filled with psychedelic dots to create what Kusama describes as ‘self-obliteration’ — to give up one’s individuality and becoming one with the universe.

Life is the Heart of a Rainbow is an ongoing collection of more than 500 paintings of which 24 are currently exhibited in Singapore. The paintings are, as you would expect, covered in dots and bright colours, as well as some that are in black and white, inspired by biomorphic shapes and elements, creating an otherworldly sense of whimsy.

Yayoi Kusama’s signature yellow and black dot motif displayed at City Hall Chamber is appropriately titled Dots Obsession.

Pumpkins remain one of Kusama’s favourite motifs, and one exhibit displays her love for the squash plant. The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended Into the Heavens features a room draped in yellow and black dots and a peep box that double as mirrors housing the pumpkins to create an infinite field of pumpkins. Dotty, yellow pumpkins.

All in all, an exhibition definitely worth visiting for all ages and a chance to get up close and personal with Kusama’s creative journey across seven decades — longer than most of us have been alive. YAYOI KUSAMA: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow will run till Sept 3 at the Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery and City Hall Chamber, Level 3, City Hall Wing.


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