Yayoi Kusama’s long career has been characterised by a series of reinventions. In her early experiments on paper and canvas, she used Japanese traditional and modern techniques and also, remarkably, taught herself to approximate oil painting using the limited materials available in post-War Japan. In On the Table, she mixed sand and glue with household paints to give the textured appearance of oil paint on canvas.
From her home in the small Japanese town of Matsumoto she dreamed of travelling to New York to establish herself at the heart of the art world. She achieved this aim almost by sheer force of will and through a canny sequence of changes in her practice that reflected the prevailing trends of the time. She continuously transformed, moving from painting to sculpture to installation and establishing herself as a performance artist and filmmaker. In parallel with her art world activities, she established parallel initiatives, including her own fashion house and even a tabloid newspaper, Kusama’s Orgy.
Following her return to Japan in the early 1970s, Kusama continued to innovate. She began to work in new media, including printmaking and ceramics. Perhaps most unexpectedly, she developed an entirely new career as a writer. Kusama’s novels, short stories and poems continue to bring her vision to new audiences. Her autobiography, published in English for the first time to coincide with Tate Modern’s exhibition, establishes her as a fascinating memoirist.
Kusama has always aimed to bring her work to as broad an audience as possible. She has collaborated with a number of major retail companies, allowing her signature designs to be used on products ranging from lip gloss to sofas, from key chains to cars, and continues to find new ways to expand the Kusama world.