Kusama attributes the obsessive seriality of shapes and forms in her work to hallucinatory episodes which have bedeviled her since childhood: “[o]ne day, looking at a red flower-patterned table cloth on the table, I turned my eyes to the ceiling and saw the same red flower pattern everywhere… [t]he room, my body, the entire universe was filled with it, my self was eliminated, and I had returned and been reduced to the infinity of eternal time and the absolute of space” (Yayoi Kusama cited in: Laura Hoptman et al., Yayoi Kusama, London 2000, pp. 35-37). Growing up with these visions caused Kusama to withdraw from her surroundings; painting was a way to turn her trauma into inspiration. Kusama began to create biomorphic drawings in the 1950s, obsessively covering thousands of pieces of paper with organic forms of different shades. These works became the early prototypes of her Infinity Net series.
Having experienced the glitzy glamour of 1970s New York, Kusama returned to Japan and revisited the Infinity Net series, fusing her earlier work with insights developed in America. Kokoro (Heart), with its wild, vibrant hues and complex patterns, exudes a hyperbolic intensity lacking in her previous work. Unlike her earlier oil paintings, which displayed illusions of pictorial depths, the artist’s paintings from the 1980s exhibited an acrylic flatness, perhaps a reference to the two-dimensionality of Japan’s Edo-period Ukiyo-e woodcut prints. Like these ‘images of the floating world,’ Kokoro (Heart)’s patterns possess an ephemeral quality, spreading out over the canvas and threatening to cover everything in the universe in its mesmerising motifs.
Over a brilliant career spanning over decades, Kusama has cast her Infinity Net over the entire globe, captivating audiences across multiple continents. A stunning work from the renowned series, Kokoro (Heart) is a testament to the evolution of Kusama’s unique vision and meteoric rise to fame.
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