Kusama Yayoi

A message of love for all eternity

Text: Yanashita Tomoko
Portrait: Nagare Satoshi

Myriad lines extend unhesitatingly from the pen, forming repeating, multiplying, intricate patterns. The documentary film NEAR EQUAL KUSAMA YAYOI – I Adore Myself captures the artist in full flow creating 50 large F100-size canvases using just a black pen. This is not her first venture into film, previous offerings including 1968’s Kusama’s Self-Obliteration, footage of a happening in New York, but according to the artist, her feelings have not changed.

Evening glow – Dots Accumulation, 1999
41cm diameter
Photo Nagare Satoshi

“From time to time the message changes, but basically I feel the same. The idea is to get lots of footage of both myself and the production process while I’m still around, in the hope that people in later generations will watch it on into the distant future. During the filming I became so immersed in drawing that I forgot about the camera. Ideas just kept presenting themselves one after the other. Worried that if I didn’t hurry I’d run out of time, I’d prepare five or six canvases and complete them in one go, drawing from noon to nighttime without a break. When it came time to go home my head would be reeling, and the road in front would appear to undulate. I was totally exhausted both physically and mentally.”

The message that love is forever conveyed through many of Kusama’s works provides the title for her latest endeavor. So for Kusama Yayoi, what is love all about?

“I feel love all the time. ‘Love forever’ for human life, for everything including myself. I want to spend my life sending that message, for all eternity, to help people live in peace, free from war and terrorism. This is the idea driving much of my expression: pictures, sculptures, fashion and films.”

Looking at her latest, 51st canvas, the original 50 now completed, one is reminded that the art of Kusama is a neverending project. Constantly confronting premonitions of sickness and death, she draws each line and dot as if might win her eternal life. This artist who says her joy at being an artist never fades, ended by reading for us a poem she had written.

“Life is beautiful. In responding to the reverberation of self-destruction,
I wonder if I could live a day overcoming death,
a whole day, today or a whole day tomorrow.
Forever invisible, in the brilliance of life and death
I want to live until the end without taking my own life.
Suicide, wait. Could I keep living?
I will ask my art.”
(From A Message of Love from Yayoi Kusama)

Originally printed in ART iT 18 Winter/Spring 2008

Kusama Yayoi
Avant-garde artist and novelist. Has been producing fantastical, dreamlike paintings, sculptures, prints and more using polka-dot and mesh patterns since early childhood. In 1957 she moved to the United States, where the late 1960s found her in New York venturing into body painting, avant-garde fashion shows, and happenings aligned with the anti-war movement. Returning to Japan in 1973, she now resides in Tokyo. The documentary film NEAR EQUAL KUSAMA YAYOI – I Adore Myself is due for release across Japan beginning February. The book I LIKE MYSELF containing the latest 50 works mentioned here is now on sale.


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