Yayoi Kusama at the Victoria Miro Gallery (Exhibition Review)

Yayoi Kusama, an artist consumed by the idea of the cosmic universe, has created her own little universes for the British public to enjoy at the Victoria Miro Gallery in Wharf Road. Occupying the gallery’s three locations and waterside garden, Kusama exhibits her latest sculptures, paintings and riveting mirror rooms.

She shows a reflective side to herself in this exhibition, by presenting two dramatic and beautiful mirrored rooms, one glassy and white with a chandelier as the centrepiece, naming it the Chandelier of Grief and the other illuminating thousands of tiny psychedelic pumpkins which she has entitled, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins. Outside, at the waterside garden there is a big mirror box in which people can go in. When you enter, you see that she has rejected the visual in the form of blackness and negative space and using the light as the piece’s focal point which creates a slight melancholic undertone when knowing that the installation room is called, Where the Lights in My Heart Go. We also see her Narcissus Garden, in which a pond has been filled with metal spheres where you can catch a glimpse of your reflection. If you do not want to suffer the same fate as Narcissus when he looked at his own reflection, you should be careful not to look too closely.

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Yayoi Kusama blends what is natural with the unnatural. This could possibly be a blend of what many would perceive as a collective idea of reality combined with Kusama’s own visualization of reality through her own eyes. To put it simply, she invites us to look at her pieces (her mind and eyes) through our own perception of reality. Whether this is through metallic spheres in a pond, psychedelic dotted pumpkins in bright colour, giant metallic pumpkin sculptures, or grief being represented by unnatural glass and mirror. We are given an out-of-this-world experience filled with wonder that lasts only 40 seconds before you’re obliged to go out into the real world of the gallery again.

Nevertheless, although Kusama shows us her reality, the focus is usually put onto the viewer combined with the presence of the room itself. Each one of these rooms reflecting inwards, which means that when entering these spaces, it can be sometimes a daunting or overwhelming for the viewer to concentrate. The stage is so overpowering that we might even forget ourselves in the moment, not even thinking about finding ourselves in the reflection, but we experience the space as a harrowing, isolating, and almost a living thing, and we, simple and small in comparison to infinity, become a small part of the glorious beauty of forever. In Chandelier of Grief, a light flickers, menacingly in the middle of the room, like a heartbeat of electricity.

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Kusama’s paintings differ to the rest of the exhibition. You get a break from the dramatic and your eyes enjoy a gentle flow as you witness the Infinity Nets. The pieces are subtle, graceful, and fluid. A blend of different colours, yet bright and lucid. The colours vary from pinks, greens, greys, blues, and reds. They’re perfect selfie material. They are a spectacle whether you look at the pieces from close or far, and are very calming to look at, and are wonderful in their simplicity. Yayoi Kusama’s ever-famous dots still exist but within hollowness of a hoop, which probably makes it less overwhelming as the other harsher dots in her other works, and would also, make the pieces more endearing to the eye.

Kusama is largely associated or reduced to her dotwork or polka dots, but her work in this exhibition easily demonstrates that she can interpret her passions in many different forms, and her work was a delight to see. Art lovers will be in awe of seeing the art of a true visionary, others will still be visually delighted by the fun that Yayoi Kusama brings to the world.