Artist: Yayoi Kusama
Artwork: Stamens Sorrow
Size: 40.5 x 40.5 x 10 cm
Medium: Stuffed fabric, acrylic and mixed media on board
Creation year: 1986
Marks: Signed in Japanese dated 1986 and titled in Japanese on the reverse
Provenance: Angelo Donati Collection Italy; Acquired directly from the previous by the present owner circa 2000;; Exhibited; Milan Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea La forma del Mondo/La fine del Mondo 2000 p. 148 illustrated in colour;; ; A refreshingly chaotic blast of colour and movement Stamens Sorrow of 1986 is a wonderful piece of art which despite hints of melancholy in its title encapsulates boundless energy and intensity. A slice of quintessential Kusama it displays many of the motifs for which the celebrated artist is best-known. A mass of seething sculptural forms which seem intent on defying their two-dimensionality it is also endlessly captivating even enigmatic; sometimes conceptual often surreal always unflinchingly avant-garde Yayoi Kusama's oeuvre can be difficult to categorise. Terms like Minimalist Pop and Feminist have all been applied to her at various point in her long career but no single classification quite does her justice. Including painting sculpture installation and performance her artistic output is as diverse as it is unpredictable. In addition to being Japan's best-known living artist she is a respected writer who has produced numerous books and essays dedicated to her own work and life as well as various novels and poems over the past few decades. Throughout most of her life she has also struggled with her mental health and whilst it might be tempting to presume that her incredible achievements have been accomplished despite her ongoing health problems in reality it seems likely that these achievements largely stem from Kusama's own personal experiences with psychological disorder. Her psychoses have proved inspirational for her art as she herself explains: "My art originates from hallucinations only I can see. I translate the hallucinations and obsessional images that plague me into sculptures and paintings" (the artist in: bombmagazine.org 1999). In fascinating pieces such as the present work Yayoi Kusama allows us a glimpse into the inner workings of her complex and creative mental experiences producing in the process a remarkable work of art which is both stunningly beautiful and startlingly profound.;; Born into a wealthy and traditional Japanese family in Matsumoto in 1929 it is something of a miracle that Kusama became an artist at all. Her early years were difficult and her relationship with her parents fractious and at times violent. Eventually she escaped to Kyoto enrolling in painting classes there but soon tiring of the traditional methods taught in the conservative academy. It was during this period that Kusama experienced a mental breakdown which triggered a period of intense creativity but also compelled her to destroy many of her early works. In 1951 she made the decision to move to New York breaking away from her disapproving family for good and heading to what was at that time the world capital of avant-garde art. Despite speaking next to no English and knowing almost no-one Kusama quickly established herself as an artistic force to be reckoned with.;; Yayoi Kusama's early reputation was based on a series of audacious performance pieces or 'happenings' which often included nude protagonists painted with lurid abstract patterns. It is here that the importance of her signature polka-dot became more clearly defined a motif which has endured in her art throughout the decades to follow. In Stamens Sorrow 1986 this dot motif is transferred onto a panoply of padded elements rounded shapes reminiscent of ova which battle to burst forth from the strictures of a wooden frame. Overlying this vibrant throng is a delicate lace of tiny 'stamen' their form clearly a reference to spermatozoa which dart and swim across the purple (a colour rarely seen in Kusama's work) and black polka-dot surface. The result is work which is at once profound and incredibly delicate the 'stamen' and 'ova' combining to create pictorial depth as well as poetic energy. A cacophony of colour shape and volume Stamens Sorrow 1986 presents us with a moment of imminent creation its fecund forms alluding to the potential for burgeoning life to new beginnings and unknown potential.
Exhibition history: Milan Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea La forma del Mondo/La fine del Mondo 2000 p. 148 illustrated in colour