It was packed and you need to queue up in order to see some (actually, most) of the exhibition. Seriously, this is not how you are supposed to appreciate the art of Yayoi Kusama.
Apart from the annoying bit that everybody just seems to want to take a selfie (or wefie), there is a lot to appreciate in the Life is the Heart of a Rainbow exhibit recently concluded at the National Gallery Singapore.
For the longest time since I have read about it, I wanted to go and see this exhibition. However, due to commitments both at work and at school (for Matthew), we found it difficult to set a date that was not a weekend. And so we braved the National Gallery one Saturday afternoon to visit the Yayoi Kusama exhibition.
But who is Yayoi Kusama?
If you were one of the few who came to the exhibition to actually experience the art and not just to take your Instagram feed to the next level, then you would have taken a bit of time to actually read up on her. It would have been told then that Yayoi’s childhood experiences had been the primary force in her art. Having lived through WWII despite the hallucinations she had been having in her head, it was easy to understand why her art is, well, classified as avant-garde. She would describe her hallucinations as “flashes of light, auras and dense field of dots”. At some point in my personal life, I’ve had those visions. I have not thought of them as hallucinations but rather, I thought it was normal happenings in my head since I wanted to be alone most of the time. She even managed to give it a name, “infinity nets” and “self-obliteration”. Big and apt words (and quite frankly, I wish I had thought of them).
She also had hallucinations of flowers that spoke to her and patterns that came to life. I didn’t have flowers speaking to me, although my dog often did. And I often spoke to my dog. Again, I thought that was normal. But Yayoi did something amazing with her hallucinations. She conquered them and used them as a means to an end. As such, you have these various art mediums that can only be described as distinctly Yayoi Kusama. I may never understand some lumps of it, but of those that I did, it made me see dots in my head again.
We squeezed our way through the crowd and queued up however which way to get into the galleries. Each of which were suffocating due to the number of people. Whether or not they were there for the art or for whatever personal reason, it made the whole experience somewhat less personal. Admittedly, I tried getting photos of my family and myself to have a reminder that I had been to the exhibition. The rest of the photos were to remind me of the art that I enjoyed and had good conversations with my son while we were there. Surely, Yayoi Kusama would have flinched at the discussion my wife and I were having with our son regarding her work. Sure, it’s been viewed and appreciated by legends and critiques the world over, but I don’t think she’s ever been critiqued by an eleven-year old boy who saw tadpoles in her art.
We would love to see her work again, but not like it was in the National Gallery. Perhaps a trip to her own museum in Japan would be a better way (and more complete) to live and appreciate the art of Yayoi Kusama.
Interestingly, I read piece in the Straits Times with whom I share the same sentiment with. The link to the article is here, and as of this writing, is still a live link.