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Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama wants her art to inspire hope

SINGAPORE – World famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama wants her works to give people hope for their lives.

SINGAPORE – World famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama wants her works to give people hope for their lives.

The 88-year-old artist who is known for her trademark polka dots and mirrors along with huge, amorphous inflatable objects, said: “Today, the world is threatened by terrorism and war. So many people suffer from widening disparity between the rich and the poor. I stake my life on my art to deepen people’s hope for their lives and for world peace and distribution of love.”

"I am moved that the younger generations are sincere to themselves, trying to create a world of warmth for peace and for those who suffer,” she said, adding that she wants to spread their optimism.

Her first exhibition in Singapore, which runs from June 9 to Sept 3 at the National Gallery Singapore, will feature more than 120 works, including never-before-seen pieces.

The exhibition explores Kusama’s long career spanning seven decades through the development of her iconic themes, showcasing works from a range of diverse media from paintings, sculptures, collages and video to large-scale installations.

Her signature infinity net paintings and infinity mirror rooms, along with more-recent works on canvas, such as the epic series Love Forever (2004-2007) and My Eternal Soul (2009-ongoing) will be on display. In addition, her mirrored peep room, I Want to Love on the Festival Night, has been specially created for the exhibition. 

Kusama shared: “Since childhood I had a strong will of becoming an artist and worked very hard to create paintings and sculptures. I was motivated by the hope to deliver the message of my life through exhibiting my art.”

Curated by Russell Storer, National Gallery Singapore’s deputy director (curatorial and collections development), and curator Adele Tan, along with curator Reuben Keehan of Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, the exhibition will also head to the museum in Brisbane after its run here.

Earlier this year, her works were also on show in Washington D.C. at The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, where a record 160,000 people visited her exhibition.

When asked why she decided to showcase her works at museums around the world such as Hirshhorn museum and National Gallery Singapore, Kusama said: “As an artist I have been dedicated to art all my life, struggling day and night to create it for the future, human love and world peace. It is a great pleasure to hear that my art and spirit has been felt and shared throughout the world and I would never forget this experience.”

The avant-garde Japanese artist was an influential figure in the post-war New York art scene in the 1950s and 60s, staging provocative happenings and exhibiting works such as her Infinity Nets, hallucinatory paintings of loops and dots. 

She returned to Japan in the 1970s and checked into a psychiatric hospital after suffering a mental breakdown where she continues to live by choice.

From early childhood Kusama experienced hallucinations, “seeing dots and nets over everything around her”, and much of her work reflects these experiences.

Storer said: “When you view her work at Infinity Mirrored Room - Gleaming Lights of the Souls, for example, you feel transported into another world. (Art) is how she works through it (her trauma), how she lives, how she communicates and how she wants the world to be and that’s very powerful.”

Yayoi Kusama: Life Is The Heart Of A Rainbow runs from June 9 to September 3 at the National Gallery Singapore.

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