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Yayoi Kusama

1929 P r e s e n t


olka dots, sex orgies and mental hospitals have all played major part in Yayoi Kusama’s career as a world famous Japanese artist. Currently, the Tate Modern is hosting a retrospective exhibition of her work. It is a huge exhibition, encompassing 70 years’ worth of work from Japan’s most famous living artist. Over 14 rooms is a fantastic overview of her life’s work in chronological order, and includes drawings, canvas paintings, full room exhibitions, sculpture and video footage, Kusama has, at some time or other, tried her hand at almost every art discipline. Yayoi Kusama’s work embodies her unusual view of the world around her in an almost hallucinatory way. She became a well-known artist in the New York avant-garde in the 1960’s until returning to Japan in 1973 where she was voluntarily admitted into the hospital that is still her home today, as she produces new work in a studio across the road.

My art needed more unlimited freedom, and a wider world.” A few years later, Kusama responded to the abstract expressionism movement with her Infinity Net paintings, large scale canvasses, an expansive mass of repeated, scalloped brushstrokes. Just as the Infinity Net series of paintings showed a compulsive way of working, Kusama soon found herself making her first sculptures in a similar way. This body of work was created just after she had moved to New York in the hopes of gaining the freedom of creative expression, which she yearned. For her first sculptural work she concentrated on every day objects, mainly furniture, clothing and accessories, and covered them with repeated phallic shapes, these were called the Accumulation Sculptures. These works have a very surreal feeling to them, as their original purpose is often no longer a possibility.

Her early work consist of many beau- One of Kusama’s ‘worries’ was oftiful paintings and drawings in- ten her ‘outsider’ status as an spired by her parents seed harvesting grounds where she would draw Fig: representations of seeds and budding flowers for hours on end as a child. She would experiment with ordinary household paints mixed with sand and seed sacks as canvasses during this time. During the 1950’s Kusama created hundreds of paintings exploring form and colour that featured abstracted forms to suggest natural objects such as eggs, seeds, trees or flowers on a microscopic scale. However, Japan was much too small for Kusama, who explained: “For art like mine – art that does battle at the border of life or death, questioning what we are, and what it means to live and die – [Japan] was too small, too servile, too feudalistic and too scornful of women.


Asian woman in New York, and she often used this as inspiration, as well as motivation to push herself to explore and innovate in order to show her creative ingenuity to her peers. Continued from her Accumulation Sculptures was her first of many full room installations, Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show. This featured a rowing boat and oars, covered entirely in the odd, phallic shapes. The walls were covered in 999 posters of this piece photographed from above. Kusama herself dubbed this entire body of work her ‘Sex Obsessions’ series and is often seen to represent her fear of sex.


She describes the methods behind these works the same as a body of work running parallel to this, called the Food Obsessions series, which was covered in macaroni:

“The thought of continually eating something like macaroni, spat out by machinery, fills me with fear and revulsion, so I make macaroni sculptures. I make them and make them and then keep on making them, until I bury myself in the process. I call this ‘obliteration’”











By 1967 Yayoi Kusama had firmly established herself amongst the New York art world, alongside the likes of Andy Warhol. Although despite this, she was still finding it difficult to support herself financially with her work. The hippie culture was challenging social views on sex and drugs, and Kusama wholly embraced this movement. She started to move towards performance art, which relied on the participation of young people. One of the most provocative of these performances was Kusama’s Self Obliteration, which featured Kusama in rural, upstate New York. She starts out dressed in a spotty ensemble, and covers everything in her path, including animals, plants and people with her now famous polka dots. Later the scene turns into a spot painting orgy, with many naked bodies painting spots on each other and engaging in sexual activities. Kusama’s name was at this point in time so synonymous with sex that it was licenced to a pornographic tabloid Kusama’s Orgy.

In 1970 Kusama returned to Japan and tried to bring her performances with her, but due to the conservative culture this did not go to plan. She returned to America to find that public tastes had changed, and there was no longer a market for her performances. By 1973 she had relocated to Japan permanently where she became an art dealer, selling Western art to wealthy Japanese clients. This stopped however when an oil crisis radically curtailed private art collecting in Japan. Her return to Japan had brought back her nightmares and hallucinations that had plagued her earlier life, which brought nu-

merous panic attacks. In 1977 Kusama voluntarily admitted herself to the hospital, which remains her home to this day. Whilst in hospital, Kusama remained active within the art world, and went back to sculpture. She continued her repetitive way or working which proved necessary in her now greatly confined space. She made one hundred unique stuffed pillows, which were arranged on the floor to create The Clouds in 1984. Kusama was also painting canvasses with acrylic paints in a mixture of bold colours with a renewed vigour. These paintings were often multi-panel paintings, suggesting an endless expanse of shapes. By the late 1990’s Kusama had returned to making her full room installations. I’m Here, But Nothing, was a room set out like any normal living space, including objects such as a dining table, a mirror, and a bookcase. The room is darkened with only a UV light, which highlights the thousands of UV polka dot stickers placed all over the furniture and room itself. This creates a strange effect as everything becomes one. Kusama now works in a large studio across the road from her hospital, where she continues to use a mixture of different disciplines although with a fresh enthusiasm to drawing and painting. A newly created work especially for her exhibition at the Tate is her Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled with the Brilliance of Life. This is one of the most beautiful passages to walk through, as you are guided through a room, filled with mirrors, and nothing except what appears to be millions of small, round lights in many colours, dangling from the ceiling.




Fig: 1 // Infinity Net No. B White (1959) Fig: 2 // Accumulation Structures photographed at the Tate Modern (2012) Fig: 3 // Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show (1963) Fig: 4 // Self Obliteration,Movie Still (1967) Fig: 5 // Yellow Trees (1994) Fig: 6 // Infinity Mirrored Room - Filled 6 with the Brilliance of Life (2011)


e were lucky enough to grab an interview with pattern cutter Kiran Gobin. Kiran, having only graduated a few years ago, has already got some pretty impressive achievements under his belt. We were particularly interested to hear about his time working with the prestigious Hussein Chalayan. You worked with Hussein ma based Chalayan on his Puma range, could tell us a bit about it? I did a I was there to help with the pattern cutting. It’s a small team that works there, at Hussein’s studio, which was such a peaceful and calm place. Its highly creative and the people working there are so skilled. There is a lot of research that is done before the design process. Hussein himself is very particular when it comes to the quality of his garments.







how this is all cut?” and I was like “No, I postgrad in worked for puma- tocreative pattern cut- tally different lines!” ting at LCF, which I recently finished, and it We saw that you’ve been was a group project. So working on a jacket. we were put into teams Was that for Hussein? and you had to each be a cutter for that de- Oh the peach one- that signer, and then pick was for Lanvin. For the different garments. We second project we chose did the autumn/winter a different designer Kikoku mainline collec- and you had to approach tion. I really wanted it differently, but the to work on my tailoring first one was a Hussein so we each chose this chalayan jacket. It was beautiful tailored suit a dark navy tuxedo jacket jacket. Its also quite with an integrated silk funny cause my tutor scarf in the lapel, it also knew that I worked was really beautiful. for Hussein and he was The cutting for Huslike “oh do you know sein’s work is actually on

very, very technical but it looks very simple. There’s a lot that goes into a Hussein garment- a lot! It is very deceiving sometimes but that’s why its so beautiful. Effortless beauty. I think the fits really important with a Hussein garment. You know the fabric quality and even the production of the garment has to be a really high standard. He’s got such an amazing team, he’s an amazing guy and he has such a strong vision. His team is really tight and they are very very talented people, so working around them and in that kind of studio really ups your game. You learn things such as how to approach your work in that kind of environment, which is brilliant. Pattern cutters from Bunka are usually some of the best in the world so it was great to see how they work.





every stage of the process?

Yeah he is. He’s based in the studio, so his office is there. Either weekly or every other day there will be a review of the collection as an overview of materials, what’s going on, etc. Obviously when you get to his stage i think you are a creative director of your company so it is more a directional kind of thing rather than him sitting

down himself drawing. He sometimes sketches things out himself to get his idea across, but he’s very eloquent so he can explain things really well. He’s a very thought provoked man so he does a lot of thinking about his designs what he can mix in. In that sense he’s quite archaic.

Do you think he gets stressed? Ha! now and again. It’s a very nice environment, the whole studio is quiet, everyone’s just working, getting on, its not chaotic at all which is obviously a nice environment to work in. He’s always had good composure; I’ve never seen him angry or anything. People deal with stress in their own way so, I cant say for certain.

What’s ite





I loved the Kaikoku collection; I thought that it was beautifully made. It was a beautiful collection. I like the S/S 2009 collection too, but I loved his collections from 2003-2005. He started to use technology with in his work, and I think that’s what’s so amazing about him. He not only makes beautiful clothes, but includes a range of new technological materials.



all know


sign’s can be rather eccentric, was there ever a moment when you thought he’s going





I think when you work in a team you have to remember, that’s why you employ people who are designers. Obviously there were points when people think it might be a little too much but that’s part of developing your design process. You may love it, but there comes a point sometimes when you just have to let it go. You do take on what his direction is and he lets the designers run with it and then they bring it back to him. He has a review with them and ideas and research are discussed, so that way, they’re all working on it together, at the same time.







you’ve or


time that you worked there that you think is good advice




He’s quite a humble man. He’s not like celebrity designer. He does his work and he’s just very grounded. I think he’s more considered, especially in British fashion, as visionary, but he is considered more of an artist rather than a fashion designer. Don’t be afraid to just think further afield, a little bit. I don’t want to

say outside the box that sounds cliché but just broaden your horizons of what you think you like or what you think your research should be, and then work from that way rather then have a set idea in you mind and work backwards. In that way its quite exciting and evolves naturally.



probably a senior pattern cutter at a really nice label like Acne… move to Sweden? Something like that possibly but you never know. Or New York…

Just got to marry somebody from there, get a green card! (Laughs) … And travelling, travelling would be good, don’t be afraid to travel a bit with your job.



I’ve just got my permanent contract at Middlesex University as a technical teacher, but I also do freelance pattern cutting: I’m a pattern cutter by trade. I cut for Martine Rose who also works at Middlesex. We were working on our collection last season for menswear and I’ll be starting work with her again for the menswear line in June. I do freelance work for another menswear brand called The Plateu. I’ve done some machining and things for Fashion East. Just really enjoying my work.

Cliché but to

where be


question in






Really tough one! I would like to be a head pattern cutter in a company somewhere, or a senior cutter. But I do love teaching. So if I could do both at the same time that would be brilliant. But yeah, prob-


SamM Howard // Halls u s i c i a n

am Howard looks set to develop as an artist keen to push any boundary he steps in front of. For this young student, trapped in claustrophobic halls, he’s the most exciting electronic artist around. How would you de- not come about because scribe your work? I stayed in university housing, that was ‘Pensive searching’, just a coincidence. especially the new ma- Only one song was writterial I’ve been work- ten whilst I was staying on; my work is at ing there. I wanted it’s most cohesive yet the name to be cavernbut still has a yearn- ous, cold, and concise. ing... I always want better and better. Your music has this hyp-

What’s ry


the your


Contrary to a few things I’ve read the name did

notic, it





do you normally cre-







songs late




staygetting state?

Well, I do often create music at night because of where I make it, it’s all done at home at the moment. But I do feel more creative at night, I guess. I kind of see it as that I have this long stretch to make things. Whereas in the day there seems to be more urgency, so you rush things. It’s probably because there are more distractions during the daytime and my house is currently quite

a nocturnal place, with people generally in the middle of strange sleeping patterns. So it’s also not like I’m ever completely alone, hunched over a laptop screen in the dark. I’ll get down to the whole technical side of things during the day, but it’s the early hours where my creative side gets to work. Sometimes this leads to some very sober mornings where I wake and realise that I’ve perhaps wasted hours on something that I thought was worthwhile when under the influence of being delirious and sleep-deprived.








tures a

‘Fragile’ feaSigur Ros sample.






things that you can’t yourself



Yeah, I used to work a lot with samples. That was my old way of working; I’d find a sample and fit everything in around it. But it comes to a point where it becomes a monotonous thing to do and tracks would get so formulaic. There are hundreds of files on my computer where it was just a sample and a beat that didn’t lead anywhere, so I decided to just leave them there. So now I try to stay clear of doing that. But with ‘Fragile’ in particular, I think it fits as

I had been thinking of using a nice organ like that. I could physically get one at that point so the only other option was to sample. I thought of perhaps replacing it later on, but I just couldn’t find anything that tops it.

more focused and driven. In terms of confidence in my vocal ability, I never saw myself as a singer at all - but over time I’ve gotten used to my voice and my range so I feel more comfortable now to use it as an instrument definitely.







more traditional instruments to go with your new sound?

Well, I’ve been really looking into getting a piano. I have actually found the perfect one. I really want to record with it, but the people haven’t got back to me yet. I don’t want to give too much away but a lot has been written already since this EP was created, and a lot of different instruments have been experimented with. This EP is very old to me, there’s stuff on it from a long time ago.






what this




I think I’m done with EPs, for now anyway. I want to focus on something a bit bigger - not in terms of style but also in scale. There’s only so much an EP can be because of its limits and restrictions, I feel. It’s nice to have these little fragments and bundles, but I don’t think it ever compares to a fulllength album that has been truly thought out and everything works together. That’s something I want to aim for.


most confident person, and so you don’t seem like the most comfortable front man, but




coming more prominent. you






Listen Now @

now in terms of your voice?

I think I feel more confident in general, not only because of the feedback I’ve been receiving but also when starting out you don’t really know exactly what you’re aiming for or towards. But having a clearer idea makes you


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L i n e - U p

Our collection ‘Ocea2n’ is inspired by the subculture of Sea Punk ho cuses on femininity and the beauty of the sea. We wanted to create a m Combining the tle, combining

styles of two designers which it with the classic shapes of

we researched, we Hussien Chalayan and

owever our collection moves away from the typical grunge punk and fomore sophisticated look, to appeal to a more grown-up, high end audience.


toned down the print of Mary Katrantzou to make drawing inspiration from his strong pattern cutting

it more suband structure.

Dale Chihuly

“I love to juxtapose the man-made and the natural to make people wonder and ask ‘are they man-made or did they come from nature?‘ That is a very important part of my work.“

H a l c y o n Gallery 144 – 146 New Bond Street, L o n d o n . 5 December 2011 – 21st April 2012


he ambient, captivating fragility of glass combined with vibrancy of colour creates the work of Dale Chihuly, currently on display at the Halcyon Gallery, Mayfair until April 21st. Having displayed all over the world, Chihuly brings his work to this intimate location, which will attract anyone with an eye for colour. Chihuly is widely regarded as one of the most exciting, paramount artists to work with glass, and this collection lives up to this, ranging from small, intricate pieces, to large scale displays of his beautifully curved glass, this is an exhibition not to be missed.


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A q u a r i u m What better way to be inspired than to be surrounded by exotic sea creatures, huge tanks of water filled with sharks and the odd sea horse. Sea Life Centre London

Cea2side Walk For many artists and photographers the seaside is a constant source of inspiration. Those of you seeking tranquility, head away from the suburban jungle and take a journey to the quiet, serene coastline of Norfolk. Photographs – North Norfolk