Art Review: Yayoi Kunama


(This is a guest post by our teen reviewer, Anushka)

The National Gallery of Singapore’s new exhibit showcasing the many artworks of famed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is yet another testament to the seven decades she has dedicated to them. Separated into four different galleries with its own separate identity, there are sculptures dated from 1972, standing still, next to a glorious explosion of spots. It was completed this year. I personally was more affected by the many boxes and rooms that greeted me with each step.

Gallery A’s display of the Infinity Nets series is not only a perspective into the artist’s eccentric mind, but also a glimpse into history, given that their first exhibition was in 1959. The paintings lack a structure, but rather all take up a canvas in a somewhat dizzying and hypnotic manner. Kusama’s past with hallucinations throughout her childhood is an inspiration for all her artwork, but Infinity Nets is a very clear product of it.

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Infinity Nets (Source: Singapore National Gallery)

Gallery A also explores Kusama’s fascination with pumpkins, which personally, was my favourite theme. The vibrant, youthful colours conveyed a theme of innocence and radiance. Not only were there paintings across the walls, but also interactive installations, where a box is placed inside a room that seemed much like a bumblebee’s home. When I peered into the box, I was greeted with mirrors aligning the walls within, and the bulbous pumpkins aligning the floor.

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Bulbous pumpkin (Source: Singapore National Gallery)

Gallery B is the home of the famous installation where many photos have been taken. Unsurprisingly, there is a line to enter this house of mirrors, where lights are hang from above crating a kaleidoscope of types. The lights shimmer and change much like Christmas lights, the darkness illuminated by what seem like tiny colourful stars. Gallery B also introduced two video installations, however, one being R18 prevented me from seeing it. The one further along shows that Kusama’s creativity was not only explored through paintings and fine art, but also through poetry and music, as a projector broadcasts her own song named the “Song of A Manhattan Suicide Addict”, where she uses her own experience dealing with depression to get across an eerie and uncomfortable song with the familiar pumpkins behind her, a strange contrast of the youthfulness before and this sudden talk of death.

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Life Is The Heart of A Rainbow (Source: Singapore National Gallery)

In Gallery C, we are met with hundreds of paintings adorning walls, some intricately drawn and others colourfully painted the deeper you go. Once again, another room installation meets you, this one transporting us to our childhood days where polka dot stickers are covering a white room, and two sculptures of tulips are placed inside. While yes pumpkins were youthful, this seemed more innocent, and it is a weird jump from restricted videos and images into the mind of a child once more.

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With My Love For All The Tulips, I Pray Forever (Source: Singapore National Gallery)

Finally, Gallery H is a room full of stainless steel metal balls on the floor, and we are clearly instructed to not touch them, to not lie down with them, and to not interact with them in any other way aside from a glance down. The story behind this installation was one I was particularly interested in, and I later learnt that Kusama had acted as a street vendor with these balls all around her in the middle of a street, and tried to sell people passing by their “narcissism”, and it was only then when I realised these were reflective balls. It seemed a poignant way to end the exhibit; after searching through Yayoi Kusama’s mind, we ended up looking at ourselves.

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Steel balls (Source: Anushka)

 

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