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Saturday, October 19th, 2019

Instagram-perfect: Kusama brings polka dot infinity to Southeast Asia

by July 30, 2017 General

SINGAPORE – Disappear into an infinity of polka dots and explosions of light and color as Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama showcases 70 years of work in her first major exhibit in Southeast Asia.

In “Life is the Heart of a Rainbow,” which runs at the National Gallery Singapore until September 3, Kusama creates seemingly endless spaces through a kaleidoscope of patterns and whimsical shapes on paintings, sculptures and mirror room installations.

The arresting visuals make the perfect subject for Instagram posts or the backdrop for that obligatory OOTD selfie, proving there’s more to see in this Southeast Asian mega-city than the Merlion.

Yayoi Kusama’s paintings and sculptures are displayed at the National Gallery, Singapore. Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

Louis Vuitton creative director Marc Jacobs profiled Kusama in 2016 for Time Magazine, which hailed the Japanese artist as one of world’s most influential people that year.

“We spent a few hours together, and every time I tried to leave, she’d pull me back in. It made perfect sense with the art she creates — the intensity, the repetition. She just felt like the embodiment of what she makes,” Jacobs said.

That hypnotic effect is most evident in “The Spirit of the Pumpkins Descended into the Heavens” where two of her signatures — pumpkins and polka dots — stretch as far as the eye can see inside a peephole installation.

Yayoi Kusama’s “The Spirit of the Pumpkins Descended into the Heavens” at the National Gallery, Singapore. Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

The same black-on-yellow color scheme greets visitors on the gallery entrance, where giant balls hang from the transparent glass ceiling. Look up when the sun is shining bright as water reflected from the roof paints the white walls with a smoky veil.

Yayoi Kusama’s “Dots Obsession” adorns the National Gallery Singapore ceiling. Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

Another peephole opens into a light show that switches from teal, blue, red, green, red and gold before exploding in a purple-tinted zigzag of rainbow colors. Mirrors all around make it feel like the inside of a disco ball.

One of the featured installations of Yayoi Kusama’s “Life is the Art of a Rainbow” at the National Gallery Singapore. Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

The most immersive installation, “Gleaming Lights of the Souls,” gives the feeling of drifting through the vastness of space with hanging lights that change color.

When the bulbs turn purple, the room feels like Cerebro in the X-Men, where Professor X searches the world for mutants. A switch to green, brings visions of Maxine Medina in fringe.

Yayoi Kusama’s Gleaming Lights of the Souls at the National Gallery Singapore

Obliteration is a constant theme for Kusama, whose use of bright colors belie a troubled childhood and struggles with depression.

Familiar shapes fade into a background of whites and an overlay of multi-colored polka dots, like in “With All My Love for the Tulips, I Pray Forever.”

Yayoi Kusama’s “With All My Love for the Tulips, I Pray Forever.” Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

Former finance secretary Jose Isidro Camacho and his art auctioneer wife, Kim, lent a few pieces from their personal collection for the exhibit. The Singapore-based couple staged “I Love Kusama” at the Ayala Museum in 2013.

These include a Venus de Milo sculpture that takes on an almost reptilian sheen, painted all over with a black and yellow net pattern.

Yayoi Kusama’s Statue of Liberty Obliterated by Infinity Nets. Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

“Life is the Heart of a Rainbow” draws both locals and foreign tourists. Polka dots adorn waiting shed posts and train doors all over the city-state.

Come early on a weekday to soak in the exhibit and avoid long queues, especially for the light installations.

For selfie-seekers, come in solid, muted colors that will not clash with the art. Check the hashtag #sgloveskusama for photos.

Tickets are available online and on-site for 30 Singapore dollars (P1,112), which includes full access to the entire museum. A 5-dollar discount is available for members of the academe.

Go to the museum’s Southeast Asian art section for pieces by Filipino masters Fernando Amorsolo, Juan Luna and Carlos “Botong” Francisco.

Juan Luna’s “Espana y Filipinas” at the National Gallery, Singapore. Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News
Fernando Amorsolo’s “Marketplace during the Occupation” at the National Gallery, Singapore. Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News
Carlos “Botong” Francisco’s “Under the Mango Tree” at the National Gallery, Singapore. Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News