Category: artists

yayoi kusama in london

i’m a huge fan of yayoi kusama. she was the subject of my dissertation, but only discovering her work recently meant i’d never had the chance to see it in the flesh.

the major show that just finished at victoria miro was over two sites, and while i only managed one (hoxton) it focused on her most iconic works – the mirror rooms and (new) infinity net paintings, as well as the pumpkins which now seem to stand in for the proliferating soft phalluses of her 1960s works, her current fecund obsession.

the logistics of a highly popular show featuring environments (as kusama termed her installations) that can only be experienced by a small number of people at a time made for a *lot* of queueing. but it was well organised and stewarded, as well as strictly timed. for this fangirl at least a half hour wait for 30 seconds in a mirror room seemed like an entirely fair swap 🙂

i didn’t want to spend too much time precious time taking pics, i tried to immerse myself as fully as i could in the mirror rooms, following the lights spinning away into dizzying infinity. but i doubt i’ll have another chance soon so at least one selfie was required.

i’d been expecting the rooms, and the giant bronze pumpkins – which are satisfyingly solid and grounded – but i wasn’t prepared to see any infinity net paintings. as far as i was aware her recent painting output was all in her more graphic style, deriving their energy from juxtaposition of vibrant colour and line, rather than the expressive textured surfaces of her early work. but (as far as i recall) the paintings on show were all recent, and included  several infinity nets.

a closeup of a white net. a black ground is lightly washed with white, showing the texture of the canvas, and overlaid with an endless series of tiny arcing strokes that meander and proliferate along the surface. this vigorous texture gives a great sense of movement, a sense of life, reaching to the edges of the canvas and threatening to escape beyond it (when kusama first painted her infinity nets in new york in the late 50s and early 60s she indeed continued the nets along walls, floors, windows, and even her own body, reflecting her mental turmoil of the time).

her use of this texture is even clearer in a multicoloured net painting. i love this piece for its combination of the net motif with subtle use of bold colours on the ground. the painting pulsates and vibrates like a living thing.

there was also a chance to see narcissus garden, which kusama famously installed in guerrilla fashion at the venice biennale (1966), scandalising the organisers by selling the mirrored spheres off piece by piece to the visiting public. the act was both commentary on the thinly-veiled commercialism underlying the international art trade, and an early demonstration of kusama’s canny approach to marketing and merchandising which has made her the highest earning female artist of all time.

the translation from lawn – as in venice – to pond was an inspired one. the movement of the mirrored spheres and the sound of that movement made for a transfixing, hypnotic experience; qualities evident in all of kusama’s best work.

peter hall textile designs

i first encountered peter hall’s work when i was making curtains for our vw camper. i found a vintage piece of fabric on ebay, and the designer’s name and the name of the pattern – petrus – was on the selvedge.

peter hall petrus 1967 | for heals

my research led me to the v&a, who hold a number of peter hall’s designs for heals in their archive. following the sad demise of the camper i resold the fabric, but remembered the name and the wonderful combination of geometric and plant-like forms, and strong colour palettes of his designs.

peter hall rosamund 1975 | v&a collection

when i came across original fabric another of his designs, candida – in 4 different colourways! – i snapped it up. it’s a more figurative, botanical design than petrus, but the use of bold stripes of motifs still gives it a structured feel. the pattern is a much smaller scale than petrus (ruler in top image is 50cm) and for my purpose of covering books it works well in small sections, each with an emphasis on one or two elements of the design.

peter hall candida for moygashel

it isn’t one of the designs held at the v&a and my research came to a stall, until i found that peter is still working as an artist, though relocated to new zealand. i emailed to ask if he could give me any information on this particular design and was a little star-struck when i got a reply 😀

this is what he has to say about candida:

Originally the design was printed in the early 1970’s and was part of a collection of designs I produced, some of which were also purchased by Heal Fabrics. The group were inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite and the Art Nouveau movement.
During the late 1960’s and early 70’s there was a revival inspired movement against the modernist design influence of the mid 50’s and early 60’s.
The 1970’s in Britain was a tough time for local manufactures, and consumers were also looking for a more romantic and nostalgic inspired products, for both fashion clothing and furnishing.
the exuberant print is inspiring to work with – i’m currently working on a new collection of a5 journals and albums featuring the candida design. i’m combining the four colour ways with an assortment of solid-coloured japanese endpapers, ensuring each book is still unique, never to be repeated – quite a feat at the accessible price range for this collection.
peter hall candida blue colourway

gathering images and links for this post i realise i’m missing at least one colourway – i had no idea it also comes in this glorious blue. *sets up ebay search* 🙂

see peter’s recent work on his website:

bristol | spike island | arnolfini

inspiring studio visit yesterday. i’m deeply envious of the studio spaces we saw, most of my making happens in my 10′ square “loom room” (it has at least 3 stashed away in various places) which doubles as wardrobe space for 2. if there was ever anything more motivating than the prospect of a dedicated studio i’ve yet to find it.

i was most taken by the real sense of community in the studio space, the shared resources and skills, the opportunities for exchange of ideas and collaboration. i was fascinated to hear from mark and lisa of plenderleithscantlebury, who’ve taken their varied technical skills and developed a business fabricating for artists. they’ve clearly identified a market – artists whose ambition in terms of scale or materials exceeds their technical skills – and are thriving on it.

i was also glad to be able to resolve a mystery, on visiting the arnolfini. i happened to be in bristol the day before and, walking towards the dockside, was baffled by the fog rising from the water. i didn’t have time to investigate any further and drew my own somewhat confused conclusions.

turns out it’s an installation work by fujiko nakaya. seeing the (still and moving) images of her previous work immediately drew me in – the altered quality of the light, and people’s reactions to it. and to see it “for real” outside the gallery totally confirmed my admiration – it had a real impact on every passer-by for the duration of the fog.