Yayoi Kusama’s reputation as Japan’s greatest living visual artist could hardly be more concrete. The opening of Tate Modern’s blockbuster retrospective of her work was met with widespread rapture and applause.
But before we confine her to the annals of history, and the irreverent masses of international exhibition spaces, we should remember that she is very much a living, practising artist and this free show of new contemporary paintings at Victoria Miro is vibrant, vivid and distinctly unsettling.
The pieces, while understandably lacking the tonal intricacies of the vast body of work displayed at the Tate, do have a remarkable power over the room they inhabit. The curators have given each painting room to breathe. The subject matter of the pieces tend to be repeated motifs of quasi-biological forms ranging from distinct body parts to amoebic cellular shapes. There is an allusion to her famous polka dots in the repetition of the symbols, but gone are the formulaic sequences of her accumulation pieces. These works are altogether freer and more challenging.
The sculptures dotted around the lower level of the gallery represent her strongest work in years. Fantastical, kawii-inspired organisms who seem to have spilled out of the paintings as tangible examples of Kusama’s visions and hallucinations.
It seems to be a trend to align smaller free shows with Blockbuster exhibitions. Remember, the Hockney at the Royal Academy is being complemented by the Alan Cristea show, not to mention Damien Hirst’s Tate retrospective supported by Gagosian’s worldwide ‘spot painting’ exhibit.
Yayoi Kusama | New Works is at Victoria Miro, 16 Wharf Road N1 7RW until 5 April. Open Tuesday - Saturday 10am-6pm, free entry.