[Ota Fine Arts Tokyo] I Want Your Tears to Flow with the Words I Wrote: Yayoi Kusama

22 JUNE - 31 JULY 2021
  • Life’s splendid, glittering path

    Nanako KAKEI
  • The walls are covered with long lines of square paintings. Some are monochrome, some are black and pink or other varieties of two-tone, and some are vivid combinations of multiple colours. Each painting tells its own unique story, and each is imbued with a strong life force. On the floor lie several stainless-steel sculptures, whose curved surfaces show warped reflections of the paintings. As we step into the space, the same happens to our figures: Yayoi Kusama's creations envelop our very existence, and transport us to an entirely separate world.

  • The paintings in this exhibition are part of the series "My Eternal Soul", which Kusama has been working on since 2009. Nine years have passed since she announced in 2012 that she wanted to paint 1000 pieces for this series – and she has already completed more than 800. The sheer number of paintings, and the power you sense when encountering them, are breath-taking. You cannot escape the question: what is Kusama trying to tell us?

  • Yayoi Kusama
    Acrylic on canvas
    130.3 x 130.3 cm
  • The paintings in this series depict Kusama’s life over the years. For example, "EULOGY FOR MY YOUTH" (2020) and "MY SPIRIT BEHELD A RED SUNSET SKY AND PAINTED THE FUTURE" (2020) are both reminiscent of the net paintings Kusama focused on in the 1960s. The edges of the canvas are painted over to delimit the space, then covered entirely with a fine net, creating a beautiful interplay between the net and the ground colour. Other works in the series also contain motifs from Kusama's previous works, such as polka dots and profile faces, giving us a sense of the artist's journey through life.

  • It is perhaps for this reason that the series has been perceived as being full of raw energy. However, we should not forget that this raw energy is actually supported by death. Previous works in the series have been given titles such as “THE MOMENT OF MY DEATH” (2011), “RITES OF DEATH” (2011) and “ETERNAL DEATH” (2014). In this exhibition too, there is also a work titled "MY DYING DAY IN THE LAND OF GLORY, I WILL FIGHT WITH ALL LOVE AND LIFE ON THE LINE" (2021). It is a work in which yellow lines run horizontally and vertically as if cutting through a black background, and the area divided by the lines is covered with orange, red, pale green, white, and light blue polka dots.

  • Reference images:
    • Yayoi Kusama, THE MOMENT OF MY DEATH, 2011

      Yayoi Kusama

      Acrylic on canvas
      162 x 162 cm
    • Yayoi Kusama, RITES OF DEATH, 2011

      Yayoi Kusama

      RITES OF DEATH, 2011
      Acrylic on canvas
      162 x 162 cm
    • Yayoi Kusama, ETERNAL DEATH, 2014

      Yayoi Kusama

      ETERNAL DEATH, 2014
      Acrylic on canvas
      194 x 194 cm
  • The works’ other-worldly setting is surely underscored by the sculptures “Clouds” (2019), which lie on the floor. These clouds seem to indicate that we are in a space that finds itself in a world above the sky. A heavenly world – in other words, maybe, a world of death. The presence of death and the silvery clouds remind us of Kusama's poem "Filled with the Brilliance of Life", which is in a way woven into this series. Let me quote a passage from it:

  • I will keep running till I have understood what death is.  What is death? […] but I still don’t understand what death is, as I still have not died yet.  It seems that that death is certainly splendid and glittering in silver, having transformed itself into “life” which is an accumulation of living every day.  I imagine that reaching death from life is like slipping continuously through infinity time.*

  • Here Kusama is imagining death as "glittering in silver, having transformed itself into ‘life’ which is an accumulation of living every day”. As if to reflect this vision, the paintings depicting Kusama's accumulated memories of life are reflected in the exhibition space’s silvery clouds, and shine out brightly. In this space, therefore, we do not experience the gloom and dread that we usually feel towards death.

  • As the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard wrote in his 1976 work, L'Échange symbolique et la mort, the reason we find death so frightening is because it is excluded from our society. Visions of the dead are painstakingly erased from our daily lives and from the mass media. As a result, we do not know how to deal with death, and have come to fear it as something separating us from life. Kusama, on the other hand, does not treat death simply as something frightening, nor as something separated from life. For Kusama, death is "the accumulation of life, day by day", and it is for this reason that she is able to "reach death from life".

  • Today, the world is full of the fear of death. The number of deaths is announced every day on the news, and these abstract deaths increase people's fear. Against this background, this series of works by Kusama, which consider death even as they express how she has lived, and how she will live, will surely continue to gain in importance. Through Kusama's work, we are able to see death in a more concrete form, as a splendid, glittering path of life.

  • Kusama Yayoi, 'Full of Life's Brilliance', in “Yayoi Kusama: My Eternal Soul”, edited by The National Art Center, Tokyo and Asahi Shimbun, 2017





    Exhibition Period : Tue, 22 June - Sat. 31 July, 2021
    12:00-18:00 *closed on Mon., Sun., Holidays


    Venue : OTA FINE ARTS, Tokyo


    Dur to the COVID-19 situation, we will operate on an appointment basis.

    To make an appointment, please visit https://airrsv.net/OtaFineArts-Tokyo/calendar .
    *Reservations can be made up to 4 weeks in advance.