Gillman Barracks-based gallery Ota Fina Arts has unveiled a keenly anticipated exhibition of new work by globally-acclaimed artist Yayoi Kusama. Significantly, this exhibition marks Kusama’s first solo presentation in Singapore since 2017, when the National Gallery mounted a large-scale retrospective, and additionally, is the first time that these particular works are shown within Southeast Asia. But this series of work also marks an important departure from Kusama’s recognisable embrace of colour. In 2018, the artist began working intensively on a series of 100x100cm vividly coloured paintings and, the following year, continued the series entirely in monochrome.
In these, Kusama’s varied motifs – eyes, faces, biomorphic shapes, nets and dots – are rendered in black and white, and as a result offer an entirely modified experience for those familiar with the artist’s oeuvre. But in eschewing the primary palette typical of her back-catalogue, Kusama invites the viewer to explore the rich depth that exists in her painting practice, with its use of abstract figuration and microscopic views of the universe. From her childhood experiences with visual and auditory hallucination, and the subsequent development of her art philosophy of self-obliteration through compulsive repetition of singular motifs, such as dots and nets, Kusama’s practice has been keenly developed and refined over several decades.
In some ways, the work showcased in this exhibition, part of the so-far decade-long My Eternal Soul series, represent an encapsulation of her work to date. And with titles such as ALL OF MY LOVE FOR HUMANITY (2019) and LOOKING INTO THE UNIVERSE FROM MY HEART (2019), these works offer unique insight into the complexities of the mind of the artist who, at 91 years old, seems to particularly attuned to the universal themes of love, death, humanity and our relationship with the universe.
Accompanying the series of 15 paintings is a sculpture installation, CLOUDS (2019), made up of mirror-finished stainless steel forms that engulf the floors of the gallery like the mimetic liquid metal robots of the Terminator film franchise. Reflecting and complementing the organic lines of the exhibition’s paintings, Kusama’s installation adds an additional layer of immersive experience that we’ve come to expect of the artist, and demonstrates an insatiable desire to continue expanding her creative vocabulary, even in her tenth decade.
The Yayoi Kusama: Recent Paintings exhibition is on display at Ota Fine Arts, Singapore until 6 March 2021.