草間彌生:無盡圓點背後 | YAYOI KUSAMA: WHAT’S IN A DOT?

「我的生命是一粒點,是億萬粒子中的一點。」- 草間彌生

“My life is a dot lost among thousands of other dots.” – Yayoi Kusama


When your mind is in chaos, project the images on a piece of canvas, find peace of mind 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, dots covering everything she saw. She was diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) at the age of 10, when painting became her only emotional outlet. Being an “obsessive artist” of polka-dots, this particular pattern dominate her artworks and has become her well-known trademark.

“Painting saved my life.”

草間彌生 Yayoi Kusama

「當我有自殺念頭時,醫生鼓勵我畫畫。藝術是我唯一能夠減輕病徵的方法, 舒緩內心的痛苦與絕望。」對草間來說,藝術是幫助她逃離困擾現實最有效的方法。她在保守的日本家庭中長大,母親只希望她成為傳統家庭主婦。當母親發現草間在畫畫時,便嚴厲地懲罰她。相反,草間彌生在母親強烈的反對下,更投入於藝術世界中,換取短暫逃離現實的時刻。

“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 healing medicine to her soul and a way to escape from 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.

Pumpkin Army 南瓜軍
草間彌生,2014年作,壓克力畫布,130 by 162 cm
Yayoi Kusama, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 130.3 by 162 cm
Courtesy to Sotheby’s


Driven by her desire to leave Japan and her family, the Japanese artist in her 20s dreamed of getting her big break in America. In the 1950s, Kusama courageously sent letters and sought advice from Georgia O’Keefe, an American female painter she admired. Despite Kusama being an unknown artist, O’Keefe replied to her, continued to counsel her and even encouraged her dealer to purchase Kusama’s works. Kusama never let go of her passions and stuck to her philosophy of dots in order to showcase her art worldwide.


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”.

大海的眼睛 On the Ocean
草間彌生,約一九七〇年代作,壓克力彩 畫布,45.5 x 38 cm
Yayoi Kusama, painted approximately in 1970s, Acrylic on canvas, 45.5 x 38 cm
Courtesy to China Guardian (Hong Kong)

上海南瓜 Shanghai Pumpkin
草間彌生,2010年作,絲網版畫 晶石閃粉,圖像:53.5 × 45 cm , 紙張: 76 × 56 cm
Yayoi Kusama, Executed in 2010, Screenprint with lamé, image: 53.5 × 45 cm, sheet: 76 × 56 cm
Courtesy to China Guardian (Hong Kong)


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 Natalie Cheung and Anna Lam

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