Yayoi Kusama, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, 2016, Wood, mirror, plastic, acrylic, LED, 292.4 x 415 cm

Wharf Road, N1 7RW, until 30 July, 2016

The exhibition which reflects Kusama’s lifelong fascination with the infinite and the sublime, presents paintings, sculptures and immersive mirror rooms. Her vast oeuvre reflects Kusama’s interior world. The works feel both conceptual and has organic qualities.

Wharf Gallery 1 consists of the Chandelier of Grief encased by a white hexagonal room entered via a sliding door. The door is operated by a gallery invigilator with a stop watch – which though necessary when the number of visitors is significant – is somewhat ironic as it works contrary to the purpose of the piece i.e. to evoke a sense of an unlimited state of being.

[I suggest to visitors who want to mediation on the potential of their multiple selves in a room evoking a sense of endless time-space, that they arrive early (opens at 10 am) as visitors enter the room in twos and during my visit significant numbers of people joined the queue by 10.30 am.]

Given my own fascination with light and time-space related concepts, my experience of all three mirror rooms was uplifting and energising. I did not experience the sense of self-obliteration Kusama invites viewers to confront. Far from suspending my sense of self, the infinitely mirrored spaces motivated me to embrace our human potential to continually expand, explore and discover.

Yayoi Kusama, When the Lights in my Heart Go, Stainless stell, aluminium, 2016, 300 x 300 x 300 cm

Kusama has been working with mirrored interiors for more than 40 years. When the Lights in my Heart Go is positioned in the Waterside Garden. It is made from polished steel. The darkness of the interior space is interrupted by small holes thereby allowing natural light to enter the room; the light rays then intersect one another so the walls are peppered with direct and reflected light.

The intensity of light within the room and the directions in which the light rays radiate alters so the interior can be dim or intensely lit according to the ever-changing light conditions produced by the sun outside.

The room is installed in the Waterside Garden alongside another piece entitled Narcissus Garden, 1966 which is a permanent installation. Placing these installations in the garden side-by-side emphasises the intersections between interior and exterior spaces.

The work comprises 873 spheres of polished steel, 30 cm, which reflect light as they spin, cajole each other and glide across the water-lilied pond motivated by the interplay of recycled water tumbling from a small fountain and wind conditions.

Thus, although they are materially identical, they each have unique characteristics including metaphysical (time-space) qualities which is intensified by their shifting proximity to each other (like shifting constellations).

I have been reading mythological texts recently with a focus on representations of the underworld and have been struck by the notion of the underworld as a metaphor for the other than conscious mind. In Book 6 of Virgil’s Aeneas, his heroic protagonist travels to the underworld to resolve issues associated with the death of his father which cannot be approached in the everyday material world. Kusama’s poetry demonstrates her intentions to seek ‘truth’ from otherworldly realms:

I Want to Keep Living, But…
From within the radiantly shining sky,
appear quietly my infinitely earnest wishes for
finding the truth.
From the end of the universe, they have finally come out
to talk to the dead and the living.
(extract taken from Morris, p. 107)

Light is therefore an apposite means of expression for Kusama who uses it’s time-space qualities to represent her own ever shifting, expanding, pied interior and exterior experiences both consciously (pumpkins as a selected motif for the “joy of living”) and other than consciously (the realms of potential self-obliteration and infinity nets).

Thus, light’s non-material qualities are used to make visitors sensitive to their potential to extend their conceptualization of the extraordinary and expanding world we inhabit and co-create – we can simply visualise and contemplate light or we can contemplate Kusama’s invitation to become light.

ST George Street, W1S 1FE, until 30 July 2016

Mayfair Gallery 1

The exhibition at Victoria Miro’s Mayfair gallery comprises fourteen painting by Kusama produced 2015 -2016. All the paintings share the uniform dimensions – 194 x 194 cm.

Yayoi Kusama, My Heart’s Abode, 2016, Acrylic on canvas, 194 x 194 cm

All the paintings were given titles retrospectively which are meaningful to Kusama:

Shedding Tears to the Season, 2015, Acrylic on canvas, 194 x 194 cm

“The paintings are filled with an overflowing abundance of ideas that just keep bubbling up inside my mind. Everyone asks me where my inspiration come from, but I just pick up the paint brush and flow my hand and the work just flow from me. (Quotation reprinted in Victoria Miro’s guide to the exhibition)

The paintings are mainly monochrome; often with strongly contrasting colours. Images include eyes, faces and cell-like, organic structures. The marks consist of dots; often layered and irregular lines. At the centre of five paintings is a square block of colour one of which (white) is left uninterrupted. The works appear to be a vibrant concoction of primeval and psychedelic forces. I was reminded of aboriginal ancestral dream journey paintings and of looking at stunning geographical feature of the earth from space (see image below).

Yayoi Kusama, My Eternal Life, Acrylic on canvas, 194 x 194 cm, 2016

Entry to both galleries is free. Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am – 6pm.

Morris, F, Yayoi Kusama,(2012), London: TATE