A glimpse into the marvellous mind of Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama, Dots Obsession, 2005, acrylic and metallic paint on canvas, 63 3/4 x 51 1/4 in
"My life is a dot among thousands of other dots." — Yayoi Kusama
Growing up in Japan until her mid-twenties, Kusama felt rejected by Japanese society for her mental illness. In 1957, at twenty-seven years old, she moved to New York City seeking refuge from her family and her home country. It was during this time she came to develop the Infinity Net and the Polka Dot, two signature motifs that represent a constant hallucinatory vision for the artist, occupying a large part of her conscience.
‘Forget yourself. Become one with eternity. Become part of your environment.’ – Kusama
For Kusama, art is a form of self-therapy, a way for her to find a sense of calm through the process she calls ‘self-obliteration.' Just as she allows herself to be absorbed by her environment, finding tranquillity and peace of mind through painting, the viewer becomes absorbed in the canvas she creates, engulfed in a world of dots which oscillates before the eyes. In this way, Kusama alleviates her mental anguish, whilst simultaneously exhibiting her remarkable artistic talent.
The all-encompassing nature of Kusama’s work is like no other. Throughout her career, she has been categorised as a Surrealist, Pop Artist and Feminist, among other labels. Yet, she refuses to be singularly characterised, expressing in an interview of her distaste for being defined: ‘people in New York call me a ‘Surrealist-Pop’ artist. I do not care for this kind of labeling.' Kusama is an outsider in many ways, even with her renowned artistic practice and critically acclaimed career. Perhaps this is why her polka dots continue to intrigue and allure, as they allow the viewer a glimpse into the very unique and intimate world of the artist. Dots Obsession, 2005 (above), belongs to her most personal and renowned body of work, relating to the canvases she began painting in the late 50s. Far more complex than its predecessors in composition, the intricate interweaving of dots shows a more refined manifestation of Kusama’s original concept. Enchanted by the dots, the viewer is sent down the spiraling staircase of Kusama’s brilliant, complicated mind, mesmerised by a mixture of fragility, boundlessness, and abstraction.