Posted in Art and Artists, Research & Reflection

In the Studio: Yayoi Kusama

“Infinity net painting.” Oil over acrylic works, not the other way round. – Big douse of black, with a bit of colour for interest. Think what to do with edges. Kusama often left them primed. Making the ground very smooth, rather than having brush strokes visible. Allow to dry then sand with 120 grit. Provides a less glossy surface and exposes the weave slightly.

For top coat, using the sculptural properties of the paint. Small finger gestures to build up the image. Accept the flow of the activity. Very little editing, but with some consistency of mark making. Slow sculptural brush marks. Later, added a material (Maygilp) part way through painting to change the consistency of the paint, and hence feel of the painting, slightly for some zones. Changes the feel of making the painting. Note that the aesthetics of the painting relates directly to the way the body moves when painting, and hence to the preparation of the material.

Further on, added linseed oil instead. Roughly blended. Change the orientation of the painting to add character and interest. Painting is in zones, with different properties. On first sight very simple (black and white), but as the observer looks more closely there is a lot of complexity.

No. F, 1959

Working with ‘holes’ rather than polka dots. Figure-ground relationship inverted. Bottom layer is a very thin wash of colour, then built up the net using thicker paint. Gestural painting, rotations of knuckles and wrist. Multiple centres of gravity in the painting.

A single fundamental idea returned to across many variations and iterations to generate a body of work.

Violet Obsession, 1994

Sculptural extension of the same idea as the infinity net. Limp purple phalluses applied all over a row boat sitting on the gallery floor. This would have taken an extensive time, hence the “obsessional” in the title. Quite surreal in approach, as in it has refuted the function of the boat. Kusama draws on many movements. Abstract Expressionism was much about the purity of art, which isn’t evident here.

Accumulation No. 1, 1962

Phalluses (in effect stuffed socks) attached to an arm chair. Use of everyday objects placed her at the forefront of “pop art”. Material quote: “She’s a woman artist in a man’s world in 1962 in New York City, a tough, tough venue to be a woman artist.” … “By sitting on this piece of furniture, of course, you’re doing damage, or you’re doing violence to the phallicists that you’re sitting on.”

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