Martha Wright reviews Yayoi Kusama’s surreal exhibition at the Victoria Miro Gallery
Yayoi Kusama’s latest exhibition at the Victoria Miro Gallery, The Moving Moment When I Went To The Universe, fulfils everything you expect from one of her shows: an infinity room, bright colours and bold shapes. When you step into a Kusama exhibition you’re stepping into her head space, one of hallucinations, repetition and an obsessive personality.
The exhibition begins in a pensive queue for an infinity light room, one of Kusama’s signature pieces. No matter whether you’ve been in one of her infinity rooms before or not, they continue to retain a sense of playfulness, enthralling visitors. This one had clusters of dotted paper lanterns filling the darkened mirrored space. With only a minute behind the curtain you have just enough time to absorb the room and take a quick selfie before being shuffled on to the rest of the exhibition.
Further on, there’s a room of large-scale bronze painted pumpkins obliterated with polka dots. The pumpkin series is eerie, the pieces like swollen monsters growing out of the gallery and the paintings drawing you in like magic eye illusions.
Kusama is a Japanese conceptual artist with an incredible history and mental ability. Her work is focused on personal and psychological attributes conveyed through encapsulating installations. We may not be able to understand what’s going on in her mind that drives her to produce these art works, but we can sure appreciate the enjoyment they give us as we goof around the Dr Seuss type flowers and try our hand at creative photography. In the serene outside space that the Victoria Miro gallery provides, these larger than life flowers loom over us. An impression of the flowers that spoke to Kusama while she was hallucinating, they arch over visitors in a bizarrely amusing way.
Leading up to her 90th birthday, this exhibition not only presents the Kusama we know, but also in the large open upstairs space, a series of large scale canvases on the theme of Eternal Soul. They’re filled with goofy faces, hidden eyes, and cell like structures. With rough brush strokes, the series of paintings are a long way from the highly-shined cleanliness of bronze polka dot pumpkins. The colours are still bold, yet this series of psychedelic artworks give an alternative impression of the world with microscopic and macroscopic depictions of emotions.
Yayoi Kusama is an artist who relishes in the Instagram age, her artwork recently going viral with its trippy imagery and amusing shapes. In among all the disconcerting themes, she’s a reminder to us all that art can still be fun.