John Mcewen com­ments on Talks of a Flower Gar­den

Country Life Every Week - - My Favourite Painting Abi Morgan -

In 1959, a pen­ni­less Ja­panese artist Yayoi Kusama, newly ar­rived in new York, sold a paint­ing, No. 2, to Don­ald Judd, a stu­dent (later the fa­mous Min­i­mal­ist sculp­tor), for $200. In 2008, it sold at auc­tion for $5.1 mil­lion, the record for a liv­ing fe­male artist. In 2015, she was voted the world’s most pop­u­lar artist, based on mu­seum at­ten­dance, her mir­rored in­stal­la­tions and ob­ses­sion for polka-dot­ting ev­ery sur­face pop­u­lar with adults and chil­dren alike.

She was born into a rich mar­ket-gar­den­ing fam­ily. Trau­ma­tised by a pa­tri­ar­chal feu­dal up­bring­ing and tyran­ni­cal mother, she found so­lace sketch­ing flow­ers. Af­ter wartime forced labour mak­ing parachutes and mil­i­tary uni­forms, she re­belled against her par­ents and be­came an artist. At 30, she moved to new York with­out English or con­tacts.

The late 1950s proved per­fect tim­ing as she en­gaged with the ex­per­i­men­tal stir­rings of pop, per­for­mance, in­stal­la­tion and multi-me­dia art. She blos­somed, no­to­ri­ous not least for nude hap­pen­ings. none­the­less, she re­mained sus­cep­ti­ble to break­downs. In 1973, she re­turned to Ja­pan, where she launched a par­al­lel writ­ing ca­reer. Since 1977, she has cho­sen to live in Tokyo’s Seiwa Hos­pi­tal for the Men­tally Ill near her art fac­tory, where she works daily with as­sis­tants.

This paint­ing is from a con­tin­u­ing se­ries ‘My Eter­nal Soul’, in which im­ages are freely as­so­ci­ated, some re­lat­ing to her ear­li­est ob­ses­sion with flow­ers. Fans queue overnight for her shows. ‘If it were not for art, I would have killed my­self a long time ago.’ now, she says. ‘I want to live two or three hun­dred years to do all the things I want to do.’

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