In 2009, Yayoi Kusama began a series of paintings that would form an essential, and ongoing, part of her practice for over a decade. Entitled My Eternal Soul, this collection of acrylic paintings forms the basis of her latest exhibition at the Victoria Miro gallery: I Want Your Tears to Flow with the Words I Wrote.
This representative slice of Kusama’s obsessions, motifs and materials begins with new works from the My Eternal Soul project, each painting primitive and transcendent, alive with colours in swirling cosmic arrangements. Bustling with wormholes, faces and cellular topographies, this series cycles through evolution and loops infinitely back with the confident stroke of Kusama’s brush. The canvases are displayed together in panels to construct a world of simultaneity, where times and colours exist at once and together. The soft sculptures accompanying these paintings appear as escapees from this 2D universe, puncturing the gallery space with their horned shapes and tribal markings.
The soft sculpture on the upper floor of the exhibition, I Who Was Awestruck at the Shape of the Secret I Found in the Cosmos, 2021, continues Kusama’s occupation with micro and macrocosmic relationships. This wall-mounted sculpture presents foetal shapes of stuffed cotton, straining against the frame in a fleshy jostle for life. Kusama’s use of organic shapes and visceral pinks mimic qualities of the human body, which are presented back to us swollen and uncanny, reframed as insight into an infinitely larger structure.
As the show shifts in scale from cosmic insight to Kusama’s celebrated pumpkins, it continues to explore the artist’s obsession with polka dots across dimensions. Where her patinated bronze sculptures (all Pumpkin, 2021) are pocked with dots, their form twisted as though seeking out light, the psychedelic potential of this pattern is fully explored in INFINITY-DOTS (LKKJU), 2021. Here, irregular slithers of polka dots in alternating gradients of size fill the canvas, creating a cavernous sense of depth that disappears into a vanishing point of increasingly tiny circles.
Kusama’s signature polka dots repeat, too, across her installation Phantom Polka Dots of Fate, Ordained by Heaven, Were the Greatest Gift Ever for Me, 2021. In this piece, Kusama praises the hallucinatory dots that filled her field of vision as a child, and inspired much of her artistic practice. This installation is formed by a chamber raised on spindly metal legs, containing glowing polka-dot tentacles that are duplicated by mirrored panels. Stretching and twisting into infinity within a finite space, these forms and their inseparable patterns echo the exhibition’s themes of repetition and boundlessness. “When we obliterate nature and our bodies with polka dots, we become part of the unity of our environments”, Kusama explains.
I Want Your Tears to Flow with the Words I Wrote is not a conceptual or chronological journey, but a continuation of Kusama’s lively universe, which invites us to partake in her transcendent practice.