Eternal Souls and Polka-Dotted Pumps: Yayoi Kusama’s New Show at Ota Fine Arts

Over the span of six decades, her work has both encompassed and transcended the multifarious artistic engagements of her compatriots, borrowing from the vocabularies of  and  to forge an iconographic visual language that is distinctly her own. Extending across painting, drawing, performance, large-scale installation, outdoor sculpture, literature, poetry, film, and video, Kusama’s production is vast and varied—yet it is consistently shaped by the evocation of worlds both macro and micro, drawing universes cosmic and primordial into dialogue.
Throughout her career, Kusama has openly discussed her psychological suffering, and her struggles with paralyzing anxiety and depression. Her artworks are poised gracefully between playful formal elements—vibrant smiling suns, flowers, and even pumpkins, which Kusama has described as her alter-ego—and darker undercurrents. Indeed, beyond its eye-popping colors and whimsical cast of anthropomorphic characters, her practice is primarily characterized by an obsessive rigor that often manifests as redundant, all-over surface pattern. Best-known among her recurring motifs is the dot, which she uses to create environments and canvases that are immersive, disorienting, and supremely overwhelming.
Now, Ota Fine Arts presents a new solo exhibition in Singapore at their Gillman Barracks space, featuring nine recent paintings and a set of fiberglass sculptures by this ever-inventive artist. A handful of the canvases on view provide a sort of introductory survey to the immediately recognizable motifs, shapes, and patterns Kusama has popularized, while three large square paintings that are part of her ongoing “My Eternal Soul” series, begun in 2009, exemplify her long-standing interest in the universal. Surging off the wall with eye-shattering pigments and fluid gestures, these compositions combine abstract and figurative forms that suggest themes of genesis and death, embodying Kusama’s perpetual artistic quest for immortality.
Emily Nathan
Yayoi Kusama is on view at Ota Fine Arts, Gillman Barracks, Singapore, Nov. 28, 2014–Jan. 11, 2015.