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  • A beige screen with circles covering the bottom half and breaking into the top half
  • A symmetrical square of model flies
  • Six lines of model flies
  • Many tightly wrapped long beads held up by a pair of hands
  • Rolling the wrapper from a crayon

As part of Tate Collectives recent Infinite Kusama project in partnership with REcreativeUK.com and the Louis Vuitton Young Arts Project we ran a creative challenge for young artists aged 16 to 25. Yayoi Kusama’s studio set a brief and the challenge was to create a work of art exploring the idea of obsession, a recurring theme in Kusama’s own practice. Taking inspiration from the Kusama exhibition and her work, you then uploaded your project to REcreative. We wanted each project to show the concept and process behind each young artists response to the brief.

Five projects were shortlisted from over 90 entries by a panel of judges including Tate Modern Director Chris Dercon, South London Gallery Director Margot Heller, Curator of the Kusama exhibition, Frances Morris, and Yayoi Kusama herself.

Detail showing lots of long beads made from tightly curled wrappers

Then one of the shortlist was selected overall by the panel to take up the incredible opportunity to travel to Tokyo and visit Yayoi Kusama in her studio.


Yi Dai for her work Pure Land

“I loved the technique employed by the artist to create these memorable spots. Staying close to Kusama’s own style does not diminish, for me, the poetry of these beautiful collages” – Frances Morris

“Thought the way of making is different, this work looks like my work. I like it so much”  – Yayoi Kusama

Detail of a line of a circles with a number of circles breaking through the top of the line

REcreative arranged for the Guardian Guide’s Art Critic, Skye Sherwin to speak to Yi Dai about her work and how Kusama influenced her process.

Pure Land, Yi Dai’s winning project in the Kusama Obsession competition, is a painting of sorts, whose pale morass recalls Kusama’s Infinity Net series. What’s perhaps most striking though is how the 23-year-old Chinese artist, a student at Central Saint Martins, takes the essence of the older artist’s work –obsession, repetition and accumulation - in new directions. In place of pigment and canvas, Dai has used 2,500 paper discs, each treated with a water drop and burned at the edges. Built up in layers, they suggest magnified molecules, ripples in a pond or shifting clouds: a quiet chaos held in check by the repetitive rhythms of the artist’s process.

Detail of a cluster of circles on a light background

SS: Which of Kusama’s works most interest you?

YD: For this I looked at her earlier watercolours and small paintings in the Tate show that aren’t so well known. They’re very personal. I can see Kusama as a young woman who is very romantic and there’s a hidden rigour to them, even though they’re small and feminine.

SS: You’ve used very humble, elemental materials, paper, fire and water. Did it start with the idea of obsession? How did it progress?

YD: It’s a long story. I started working with paper about a year ago and doing similar things with the action of burning and using water to control that. It’s two opposite elements that harmonise and make paintings by themselves. I’m interested in chance and not controlling the marks as an artist.

Words: Skye Sherwin

Infinite Kusama was a project run to engage a wider younger audience with the Yayoi Kusama’s exhibition at Tate Modern. This project was a partnership between Tate Collectives, REcreativeUK.com and the Louis Vuitton Young Arts Project.