Yayoi Kusama – “When I wanted to commit suicide, my doctor encouraged me to paint more. I fight pain, anxiety and fear every day, and art is the only method I have found to relieve my illness”
When your mind is in chaos, project the images on a piece of canvas and it will become your own masterpiece.
This is what the iconic Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama did. Traumatized by a dreadful childhood under the pressure of her parents, Kusama started to experience hallucinations of dots over everything she saw. She is diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) at the age of 10, when painting has become the only emotional outlet she could hold on to. Being an “obsessive artist” of polka-dots, patterns of dots dominate her artworks and has become her well-known trademark.
“Painting saved my life”, Kusama puts it simply.
“When I wanted to commit suicide, my doctor encouraged me to paint more. I fight pain, anxiety and fear every day, and art is the only method I have found to relieve my illness” – art has been the most healing medicine to her soul to escape from the haunting reality. Growing up in a conservative Japanese family, her mother only wanted her to be a housewife and would punish her severely for spending time on developing her art interest. Under the great resistance and pressure from her mother, Kusama indulges herself in creating art even more intensely as the only way of temporary mental escapism.
To Kusama, art is a kind of “self-obliteration”, “to revolve in the infinity of endless time and the absoluteness of space, and be reduced to nothingness”. Rather than suppressing the wild imaginations to ever stem from her mind, Kusama chooses to embrace them and let it grow through her paintings as they please. Her peculiar obsession with dots is quite as evident as she describes it – “dots are symbols of the world, the cosmos. The Earth is a dot, the moon, the sun, the stars are all made up of dots. You and me, we are dots”. She sees polka dots as “a way to infinity” – “our earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos … when we obliterate nature and our bodies with polka dots, we become part of the unity of our environment”. Infatuated with the supernatural power of polka dots, and the idea of it as a fundamental element of our universe, Kusama boldly expresses her peculiar beliefs to the world through her showpieces. Worldly judgments and expectations often crush a person’s imaginative spirit in discovering the unknown, whilst self-revealing and expressing through art brings empowerment.
While Kusama’s ideas may sound abstract when they are written in words, her artworks speak it for themselves. Check out more of her masterpieces and be fascinated by what she expresses in her fantasy world.
Text by nat
Illustration by Alan Cheung @hehohood_alan