12/03/2015

Pumpkins. Or Yayoi Kusama by numbers.

Okay, I write a lot about Yayoi Kusama, but the lady fascinates me. Her show at Louisiana is very popular, and Instagram is overflowing with a veritable polka dot frenzy. And I still feel the need to write another blog post about her. Or rather her pumpkins, mostly. 


But first a few words. I like her art in a very simple, straightforward way - it's pretty, it's graphically bold, and it's extremely colorful. So, for me, it's natural to like. I know several people who find her work somewhat shallow and superficial, and yes, she does seem to repeat herself a lot, and no, there is perhaps not a lot to say about dots, come to think of it. Other than the fact that they are pretty, and perhaps resemble the stars of the universe, or perhaps also tiny cells in a Petri dish. The wonders of the small and the huge, etc. etc.

But the show at Louisiana, which is big and cover most of her career in a quite narrative and educational way, made me see something more than the dots. I saw her obsession, and how clinging to the obsession, is her way of staying sane and relatively happy. And how painting is, quite simply, physical therapy. And soothing meditation.

It's not as if these are deep or profound conclusions, but they really set my mind to work, and most especially, at how she has managed the superhuman workload of physically creating her pieces!

As far as I have been able to find out, she does not employ a hoard of assistants - but much is unclear about Yayoi, who is sometimes a bit enigmatic, when answering questions in interviews. In this one, she claims to have done her work herself, and makes a point of it.

I started really looking at her pumpkins. They have become her sort of peace-love-fertility symbol, and are said to be a reference to childhood memories. She grew up in a wealthy family who had a seed- and vegetable business, and has told, somewhere, about feeling guilty about the abundance of food her family had, in war times when the Japanese were starving.

At Louisiana they meet you already outside in bronze supersize, and there are several fine pumpkin works inside - especially a giant yellow/black cabinet, filled with pumpkins. 

(I borrowed the top photo from Designboom, and the cabinet one from snilla.blogspot)

I don't think there is even an official estimate at how many times she has painted, drawn or sculpted this plump vegetable. I just fill with wonder at how much variety she puts into this tedious motif.

Just see how she does the stems in slightly different ways - how she has a variety of ways to do those rows of dots that make up their pattern, and how they vary a lot in their outer shape. But still seems to be the same kind of pumpkin. 

All those little varieties and decisions - about every single one of those pumpkins. I know she did a lot of other types of wildly repetitive and detailed themes, the Infinity nets, for instance, but I just love those pumpkins for their way of occupying her mind for a whole, long lifetime.

So, when I saw a cheap papier-mâché pumpkin in my local hobby shop round Halloween, I just knew I had to make a close study of her pumpkins in the most obvious way: I had to make one myself! And I had to be very faithful to her way of doing them, I had to deliberately copy her, just to feel it.

So, one pumpkin and some paint supplies later, I set to work.

I gave it a few coats of spray paint, and had decided (wisely) to not do the dots with a brush, but rather with Posca markers. I started with the stem, and decided on a 'random dots' type stem. Then I did the tiny ones in the grooves of the pumpkin, and moved on to the central rows of big dots on the swollen parts of the pumpkin. And then moved on to the smaller rows on the sides.

Here are some numbers: After about 1200 hand painted dots and some eight to ten hours of fiddly work doing them - spread out over a few evenings and a Sunday morning - I ended up here. And decided that my pumpkin was done. Yayoi would have kept at it, of course.

So, you might say I took a very small stroll in Yayoi's polka dot shoes. And that was interesting.


2 comments :

  1. I discover your blog with great pleasure, thank you !

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    1. Thank you, Claude! Glad to have you as a reader, and do spread the word!

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