18 November 2009

Going dotty

When I think of art, I think of sculpture, paintings, objects of beauty, to look at and (sometimes!) to touch. I have just found a whole new dimension to the definition of “art”.

Hubby and small daughter met me for lunch and we went to look at the Yayoi Kusama: Mirrored Years exhibition at the Wellington City Gallery. It was literally mind-bending. The outside of the entire building has been covered with large vinyl dots (about 30cm across), and inside there are a series of rooms of her art. However, her art is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. She has an obsession with dots – everywhere – but not just dots on flat surfaces. Dots on large fabric cushions that look like islands; dots on walls that appear to move and shift depending on where you’re standing, and the coolest one, a completely mirrored room with a water floor, with coloured lights hung at different heights. I felt as though I was standing in the middle of the infinite starry universe, and looking up was like looking into the depths of creation. Very hard to explain but a truly incredible experience. However, it was quite disorienting!

There were two paired rooms reached through twisty corridors lined with “button” mirrors that came out from the walls and ceiling, bending shapes. One of the two rooms was entirely brilliant yellow with large black dots, with huge yellow blow-up shapes suspended from the ceiling and on the floor: we were literally walking between these shapes, but because the walls, ceiling and floors were painted the exact shades of the shapes, it was quite confusing where the walls left off and the shapes began. The other room was the exact same size and shape, filled with shapes the same size, shape and location as the first, but it was black with brilliant yellow dots – the exact opposite. I found the black room easier than the yellow one – the brilliant yellow was hard to take. The black was somehow calmer.

It was a really experiential exhibition: very hard to describe because it’s something that you are absorbed into and experience with your whole body as opposed to just your eyes. I liked it. I don’t normally like really avant garde work, but this was special. I could understand what she was trying to convey. In fact, some of it reminded me of nightmares I had in childhood: dreaming that giant black dots were chasing me. I understand that she has struggled with mental illness her whole life: this exhibition sort of let me see what that might be like, but not in a negative way.

Highly recommended, but not if you already have an incipient headache like I did!

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