I recently went on an individual trip to Belgium for a short internship stint and holiday. The trip was extremely eye-opening, I had the opportunity to stay with a Belgium family and also experience living like the local. I was extremely grateful for the level of hospitality my hosts displayed. From showing me around their beautiful city, to helping me with the basics of French/ Flemish and to making sure I was well fed, and welcoming me to their houses with open arms. I felt very much at home.
Belgium is famous for their chocolate, and they made sure I tried chocolates from the most renowned stores in the city. The chocolate shops themselves were a remarkable sight, decorated with classic European furniture and smelling of freshly prepared chocolate, it felt as it I were in movie set up. Uncle Edward (my very generous host that I’m so grateful for), decided to buy a box of chocolates at every store just so that I could try every flavour (or most) they had.
You can surely tell from the craftsmanship of each chocolate that immense effort was taken for it’s production. Each piece of chocolate was sculptured to perfection, some taking the shapes of animals (cute!), whereas others resembling famous landmarks in town. When I sank my teeth in, I was delighted that they tasted just as good as they looked. The salted caramel praline was the perfect combination of sweet and savoury and the chocolate coating in contrast to the crunchy nutty bits was rich in flavour. Every piece was extremely memorable in both design and flavour. However, one shop topped the scale, and that is none other than Leonida’s Chocolates. It is definitely a must try!
I haven’t painted in a couple of years prior to our first class, and I was quite worried I chose the wrong “object” because fine detailing and contrast are important in order for the chocolates to stand out. However, I’ve always wanted to paint food and saw this as the perfect opportunity to try something out of my comfort zone. Acrylic was a tough medium and it took some time to get used to. Getting the details out was difficult, and I feel that a lot of it has to do with the right brushes. The trick to making the painting look more realistic is the white highlights! (< my favourite part) I’ve also learnt to be patient with “layering” paint, applying only when the base coat is dry, to not smudge the colours.
1st Room: Love Forever
1. What techniques is Kusama using to unifying her canvases?
In Love Forever, Kusama uses a silkscreen technique for her paintings. When paint is silkscreened on the canvas, ink will bleed out of the lines occasionally. It is not the neatest paint printing method. However, in Kusama’s case, every single print looked very carefully printed with no bleeding of ink/ mess on the canvases. She must have taken every single detail into account, which is remarkable judging from the intricacy of each design.
2. Describe her use of space?
The canvases in Love Forever are filled with numerous black lines, dots, and other shapes and patterns. The variety of textures are contrasted against the white canvas, with no two of the same design, each unique with it’s own character. From afar, the irregularity, inconsistency and overlapping of shapes in the canvases create different shades of grey.
Looking at the pieces up close, “balance” was evidently taken into consideration. The darkest blacks stand out, but they do not over power the white spaces.
3. What emotional responses do you have when standing in front of her paintings? Can you observe anything about the relationship of the size of the paintings to your own body?
When I stepped into the room, I was immediately drawn to the scale of her paintings. I was curious to find out what the small intricate textures were. I also wondered what her thought process was, to display her paintings in that format/ system/ direction.
4. What do the marks and forms in these black and white paintings remind you of?
From a distance, I noticed that the subjects she drew looked similar to plant cells, perhaps that was her inspiration for Love Forever. After having a closer look, one of the more prominent subject matter that caught my eye, were the human body parts. I thought it was interesting that she chose to draw the side profile of each face, instead of front view. I was intrigued by the humanised patterns that was perhaps a narrative as well. If I were to make a guess, her work was meant to represent the relationship between living things and beauty of the biotic community.
2nd Room: Tulip Room Walk into the Tulip Room
1. How does your emotional response change going from Love Forever to the Tulip Room?
When I stepped into the Tulip Room, my mood completely changed. I felt more alive, “awake” (haha) and happy to see the colourful tulips and dots. It brought a sense of excitement to see so many colours in one room. I also noticed that the dots were evenly spaced out, even though there was probably a thousand of them.
2. Does the Tulip Room evoke any memories? What are the sculptural forms telling you?
I felt like I was in an Alice in Wonderland set because of the larger than life tulip structures, and the quirkiness of the polkadots. I loved that the tulip structures were in white, and from certain angles, it seems as though the structures are blending into the background.
3rd Room: My Eternal Soul: Walk into the room My Eternal Soul
1. Compare the use of color to the Black and White painting in Forever Love. How does the color effect you differently? How do you feel?
Comparing it these paintings to Forever Love, the vibrancy of the paintings gave me a sense of “hopefulness”, and that there is so much more to life to “explore”. The dynamic shapes full of colour were playful, so eye-catching and captivating to see. These paintings were probably my favourite out of all her pieces. Not forgetting her clever use of lines and shapes again, to tell a story. Each canvas has their own character to it from the visual language.
2. What techniques does Kusama use to unite the color canvases?
I feel that the consistent element of the color canvases were the bold black lines. More evidently, the bold and bright contrasting colour choices also brought a sense of unification amongst all the canvases. Once again, the details were distinctive and she used of numerous random quirky elements, similar to Love Forever.
3. Compare the rt & left walls. What are the difference in the emotions evoked by these different walls?
The right wall had canvas without the black bold lines, and the design and textures seem like they were silkscreened on. Whereas, the paintings on the left were most probably painted by hand.
The left walls felt more playful and child-like, which brought excitement and bewilderment, as compared to the right side where the canvases are simpler and more calming to look at.
4th Room: Narcissus Garden
1. What differences do you see between experiencing the Narcissus Garden on its own and knowing/imagining Kusama’s actions during the Venice Biennale where she wore the kimono and sold the balls. Please read the wall information about the performance.
To me, I didn’t feel like the art (alone) portrayed narcissism. I looked at the metal balls as a whole, rather than seeing it individually, which was what she wanted us to. I loved the idea of seeing your own reflection staring back at you, representing the confrontation of your vanity and ego. I also feel that it would have been more interesting to see the peddling booth at the exhibition as it would’ve represented narcissism clearer.
Room 5: Early Works
1. What painting techniques is Kusama using in the 1st five small paintings? What types of marks are used?
The painting techniques Kusama used here are layering, dotting/ mark making.
1. What is meant by the term “Repetitive All-over Approach”?
The subjects is painted seamlessly like a pattern on the canvas. It also means the usage of the same materials throughout.
2. Compare your emotional responses of the white Infinity Net paintings to the color Infinity net paintings on the opposite walls. What happens when you stare at these paintings?
The white infinity net paintings are soothing and calming to look at from far. I also feel that the dots are “captured” in a slow-moving rhythm. The coloured net paintings evoke a completely different feeling. The lines are much bolder, the positive spaces are inconsistent and hard to look at. I feel as if I’m “trapped” in the painting. It also gives off a claustrophobic feeling to me.
3. Describe 1 or 2 of the infinity Net paintings
In the white infinity net painting, she used acrylic to paint small circular shapes in white, over a grey background. The white dots are slightly translucent, and while the painted lines overlap one another, this created a sense of depth and dynamism. As a whole, it reminded me of waves and ripples.
Death of a Nerve:
1. How does the title effect your understanding and response to the piece?
Death of a Nerve, to me, sounds a little dark. Reading up about her, I understand why she chose this title, perhaps it was a representation of herself. You’ll be paralysed without an important nerve in your body.
1. Kusama’s pumpkins represent “comfort and security” for her. (Please read the wall information) Talk about an object that would serve as a meaningful representation of a part of your past or signifies your family history. What is the object and why?
Some of my object choices are:
Crystals for healing – Played a big role in my life for the past year or two. I have close to 40 of them at home, shared between my mum and me. My favourites are the agate and rose quartz. They bring me a sense of calmness when I’m in doubt.
Food (Chocolates, spaghetti) – I recently went on a solo trip to Belgium, where I had time of my life. I also had the most divine plate of spaghetti bolognese. Chocolates there were exceptionally yummy and hard to beat.
Running shoes – I used to be a really chubby kid, and I was often bullied in primary school. I started running around my school’s track every morning, and eventually, I lost 15kgs in a few months.
Concept #1: “What goes around comes around”
Have you ever imagined yourself trapped in a never-ending maze? You are stuck and you can’t find your way out despite walking what felt like miles.
Maybe this maze is an ever-changing labyrinth? Why were you put here, perhaps you did something really wrong? Am I in a different dimension? What lies beneath these walls? Most importantly, what is waiting for me at the end?
Key words: Mazes, Optical illusion, Positive/ Negative space, Creatures lurking in darkness, Fear & Confusion
References: Stranger Things, Alice in Wonderland, Maze Runner, Silent Hill, M.C. Escher
Concept #2: Last man on Earth
This concept explores different scenarios of being alone on earth. Being too lonely can lead to cynical results. For instance, having to split your body in half, so that you will have a friend to talk to, or having dinner with a human head sewn onto a doll’s body.
As for the art direction, I wanted the illustrations to be lively and fun, even though there will be a little gore involved. I wil also be exploring with perspectives; for instance, having the audience spot the man (doing his crazy things) in a sea of buildings.
Key words: Cityscape, Loneliness, Gore, Perspective,
References: Joan Cornelia, Victo Ngai
Concept #3: Lost at Sea
This idea features a person alone and lost at sea. Unknown to him, he is being watched.
Key words: Sea monsters, Deformed Mermaids, Shipwreck, Loneliness
References: Victo Ngai
For the first assignment, we were tasked to lie in a dark room and listen to Shamanic music, which is used as a tool to regulate sadness and enhance positive emotions. After which, we had to come up with a painting with the thoughts and ideas collected. I pictured a dot sliding from place to place, bouncing off walls, creating lines and patterns in a systematic way. When the beat became more intensified, the dot’s movement no longer followed a system but rather went into chaos. It is now in water, bouncing and creating intense ripples and waves that spread across the space slowly. When I was done with the painting, the shapes and textures remind me of underwater plants and corals, intertwined with one another. I felt that it encapsulates the contrast between the graceful motion of the plants and the underwater turbulence.