Thursday, 21 January 2010

Yayoi Kusama: Mirrored Years exhibition

After months of passing the spotty building (aka City Gallery) in Civic Square on my way to and from the osteopath, I decided that today's appointment would also see me go inside to see the much talked about Mirrored Years exhibition by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.

Kusama's sculpture, paintings, and mixed media work is made up predominantly of patterns, shapes, lines, textures, and lots of polka dots. Repetition is a key theme, with some artworks made up of literally thousands of replications of the same shapes and images. Love Forever, a series of large silkscreen prints on canvas, is a classic example of this; the detail is phenomenal (almost too much to take in) and recognisable motifs, such as dots and female profiles, fill canvas after canvas in different forms. Other larger-scale sculptures also drew on this theme, some introducing colour and texture but always repeating shapes and filling spaces in various ways.

The gallery notes about each artwork used words like figurative, narrative, post-war Modernist, idiosyncratic, and feminist statements. Perhaps. These may have been Kusama's intentions, but perhaps she simply enjoyed experimenting with shape and texture, to the point of obsession? I guess everything, especially art, is open to interpretation.

A friend described Fireflies on the Water, the mirrored room lit up by tiny coloured lights and with a viewing platform surrounded by water, as the most serene place she had been and somewhere she could happily have stayed for hours. Perhaps I was a casualty of what was a busy day at the gallery; no sooner had we entered the room and acclimatised to the darkness when we were ushered out again. Our minute was quickly up and we had to make room for the next in line, ultimately missing what was probably a stunning visual 3D experience.

As a non-artist, I'm someone who enjoys and appreciates lines, colour, shape, and form in the things around me. In principle, Mirrored Years had everything I love. Yet it didn't particularly inspire me. I wonder about the curating of the exhibition. (Again, I'm a non-artist speaking.) Perhaps having the pieces spread out in large rooms with white walls somehow lessened their effect for me, and smaller, more intimate rooms or cubicles, maybe with black walls, would have magnified the overall impression gained from each artwork. The layout of the Clouds exhibit, featuring giant vinyl balloons, was described as "placed on the floor and suspended at varying heights", yet there were just two heights: floor and ceiling. I'm sure that walking among the balloons at a range of different heights would have created quite a surreal effect.

I don't know the answers. Maybe the exhibition is already perfect as it is and I just missed the point entirely. I'm disappointed (in myself) that I have come away, despite eager anticipation, feeling somewhat underwhelmed.

Photo credit: http://www.wellingtonnz.com/event/yayoi_kusama_mirrored_years
Used without permission

1 comment:

Juli Ryan said...

We are lucky to have the spotty building. I need to make an effort to go there more often.

As always, thanks for your lovely comments on WR. I want to reply by email, but your email isn't enabled. I keep starting replies to you, and then I look and it says "no reply" email address.