ART: Yayoi Kusama at The Victoria Miro Gallery

Written by: Victoria Highfield

My feet ache and I’m getting irritable. Not to mention my boyfriend, whom I had reluctantly dragged out of bed on a Saturday morning for a light and breezy day of art and culture. He’s now eyeing up the nearest McDonalds and I’m looking at my watch. It has just reached the 1 hour mark and I have to say I’ve never queued for an exhibition in my life, yet alone for over an hour. ‘These pumpkins better be worth it!’ I turn around to a pair of exasperated bloggers rolling their eyes. They have their canon cameras dangling around their necks and iPhones at the ready all poised for Instagram; I had no idea that this exhibition would be so, well, trendy! A flustered assistant from the Victoria Miro gallery comes out, assuring people in the queue that it would be any minute now and apologising for the long wait. The gallery had attracted thousands of eager visitors through its doors and it wasn’t even 2pm!

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By the time I finally get through the door, I’m greeted with… yet more queues! However these did go by fairly quickly and before I knew it I was walking amongst one of the exhibition spaces entitled ‘Infinity Nets’; a floor with mirror-polished bronze pumpkin sculptures of different dimensions. Here I can see the trademark Kusama motif – obsessive repetition of polka dots that are neatly carved into the bronze sculpture sides and are strangely hypnotic. This impressive site leads me to the first infinity room. A mirrored cube sparkles in the light and an assistant opens the door and guides me through. With a click of her stopwatch she tells me I have mere 30 seconds inside! However, as soon as the door shuts I’m fully present and immersed in the star of the show ‘All the Eternal Love I Have for Pumpkins’. The name does the installation justice for the experience of stepping into Kasama’s glowing and twinkling fields of infinity is so sublime that I lost myself completely and forgot about the pressing time limit (although I made sure to get a quick selfie in first).

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The constellations of Kasuma’s surrealist imagination make apparent the hallucinations the artist first experienced during childhood and left the pair of us speechless. Again, the fierce duplication of spots was present and even more powerful when refracted at every possible angle. Whether you’re an art lover or not it was impossible not to enjoy this incredibly interactive and sensory experience. Downstairs I experienced two more immersive mirror rooms, ‘Where the Lights in my Heart Go’ and ‘Chandelier of Grief’, the latter of which definitely lived up to its name and I would recommend avoiding. Queuing for 15 minutes to see a chandelier spin around for all of 10 seconds was definitely not worth it. However it does look impressive on film, so if you feel you can capture an instagrammable photo or video in that short space then it might be worth the wait! The mystic waterside gardens and Kasuma’s new paintings however were stunning. These works reflected her lifelong preoccupation with the sublime, cosmic infinity and personal obsession as found in repetition and pattern.

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The rooms at Victoria Miro were more than compelling and allowed us into the mind of Yayoi Kusuma, whose lively character is much like her patterned paintings being brought to life! Much like our own experience, queues for the room (and the exhibition itself) can grow throughout the day; a good tip that the gallery attendant imparted, including visiting on a weekday, was to work your way backwards through the exhibition (garden first, then paintings, then the other two infinity rooms) to minimise your queuing time. However, as celebrities continue to flock to the exhibition (Victoria Beckham was there just last week) I have a feeling this show will continue to attract the crowds and rightly so. Visit Yayoi Kasuma exhibition at the Victoria Miro Gallery 16 Wharf Road Islington until 30 July 2016. You’d be dotty to miss it!




Images courtesy of Victoria Miro Gallery

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