Kusama is an artist I have been thinking back to for a while now.
I went to her exhibition at the Wellington City Gallery when it was on in 2009. This was back before I had ever actually been to a proper gallery for an artist exhibition, and before I had really taken any interest in art at all other than to play and make my own art. So when I went into this exhibition I had no real concept of what I was seeing, or why I was seeing it.
I walked around this exhibition sort of medium pace. Taking in the spaces. And each room I went into blew my mind more than the last. Still I wasn’t sure what the work was about or how to really interact with it. But I put my faith in the Art and the institution of art and its exhibitions and I took it all in.
This show was probably one of the best exhibitions I could have gone to see as a newly interested spectator. It was light, playful, airy, and it seemed to draw something from me even as I looked without trying to read the work. And I’d never heard of Yayoi Kusama before, so I literally was going in dark.
The piece that really had me going infinity mirrored room – fireflies on the wall.
In this one you enter the room individually and stand on a little black platform surrounded my mirrors, leds, water, and the reflection of the leds and yourself over and over and over again. Standing there I felt something. And at the time I wasn’t certain exactly what it was – I had no words, and wouldn’t have been able to put them together correctly if I did. It was this artwork that stirred my soul indescribably.
It was for this piece of artwork that I brought my family to the gallery to see the artist’s work. I was so excited to show them what I saw. Have them experience what I felt. However when I took them to the gallery excited to have them experience this little room. They seemed unimpressed. My sister, particularly, said she didn’t “get” it and as far as I know she wasn’t moved to the fearful shaking mass that I was.
At the time I was disappointed the people I was with didn’t have the same shattering experience as I did. But in time I’ve realised that art is truly a personal experience whereby the artwork that speaks to one person might not speak to the second person, or the third or fourth people. But this does not make the artwork any less relevant or honest or deep or important.
I think if Art can move one person in any way then that work is profound and has a place and an importance.
Yayoi Kusama started creating her “dots” artworks after hallucinatory dreams. This is what any description of her work will tell you. Her works are about infinity, the universe, and oblivion. Again, this is what any google search will tell you. What they don’t often tell you are the strange feelings her work creates in you. Particularly her rooms that position you literally inside the dreamscape.
Inside a room like this you feel lost. Am i up or am i down? Instinctively (and because you know how gravity works) you know you are up. But inside this room there is no up or down. It is just simply dots. This is both disconcerting. And fun. And in some ways a bit hilarious. I mean what is the point even in knowing which way is up? Particularly if you are of the thinking that we are essentially a whole mass of teeny tiny dots (or atoms- if you will). And what will become after we die? A whole bunch of atoms again blended into all the other many atoms that make up everything else.
So the question here in this work is – what is the point? Is there really anything to fear? Is there really anything to celebrate? Is there anything… at all? Or is it just our minds and our imaginations?
Jim Carey had been getting a ton of stick lately regarding his newfound reality. (Youtube clip exploring Carey’s behaviour) however his theory relates directly (in my view) to what Kusama explores with her art. Albiet she did admit herself to a psych ward in the 70s. But she is exploring this sense of nothingness. Of infinity. And I’m not sure she quite understands it herself as I saw in a video playing at the gallery at the time that she was less interested in how her art played out. And more interested in how many people saw the art and how often it was in publications. Which is fine. But surprising for such a profound artist.
If you get the chance to see her work in the flesh I highly recommend it. And if not, she certainly is an artist worth exploring.
Heres a few more images of her works.