Yayoi Kusama, Study of a Peony from a sketchbook
Yayoi Kusama, Study of a Peony from a sketchbook 1945
Kusama’s family made their living by cultivating plant seeds and she grew up surrounded by fields full of flowers. This formative environment has been a touchstone for the artist throughout her life. From her earliest sketches to her most recent large-scale sculptures, Kusama has been fascinated by the plant world.
Yayoi Kusama - Flower Bud No.6
Yayoi Kusama, Flower Bud No.6 1952

One of Kusama’s earliest surviving works is a sketchbook she kept as a student, the pages of which are full of detailed drawings of peonies. These precise depictions transformed into more allusive imagery in her works of the 1950s. Stumps and roots rising out of the parched ground in Earth of Accumulation are suggestive of bones, while the sprouting form in Flower Bud No.6 is rendered in lines that evoke a calligraphic character.

Kusama made a number of accumulation sculptures that allude to floral life. A number of accumulation sculptures including Flower Overcoat and Silver Dress are covered in plastic flowers. In My Flower Bed a bloom made of gloves rises from a ground constructed from mattress springs.

Yayoi Kusama - Heaven and Earth
Yayoi Kusama, Heaven and Earth 1991

In the 1980s and 1990s she made a series of large-scale paintings and sculptures that continue this fascination with plant motifs. Tendrils spill out of boxes in Heaven and Earth. The triptych Yellow Trees features a writhing mass of polka dot covered tubers snaking around and through one another.

More recently Kusama has made large-scale sculptures depicting colourful polka-dotted, eye-bedecked flowers. One of these exuberant, cartoonish works can be seen on the balcony off the café at the exhibition’s exit.