The Art of the Plant – Yayoi Kusama

Find out why the Japanese artist regards her work as a means to heal both herself and mankind
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Heart Flowers (2011) by Yayoi Kusama. Private collection. As reproduced in Plant
Heart Flowers (2011) by Yayoi Kusama. Private collection. As reproduced in Plant

From quinine bark to poppy pods, plants’ medicinal properties inspire some of the strongest and most beautiful scientific images in our new book, Plant: Exploring the Botanical World.

However, among the books 300 representations is also this less botanically accurate plant picture by a leading contemporary painter and sculptor, which probes the healing properties of floral imagery in a very different way. Here’s how the book describes this work.

“The dots of this black-and-white painting of unidentified flowers are somewhat reminiscent of Australian Aboriginal paintings of plants and animals, but in fact it was created by Japan’s foremost female artist, Yayoi Kusama. Its somber atmosphere reflects the circumstances of its creation in 2011; that March, northeastern Japan was rocked by a powerful earthquake and tsunami, which wrought devastation across a wide area and killed more than 15,000 people. Kusama’s image is thus a form of memorial.

"She has been creating pointillist pictures for almost seven decades, usually in bright primary colours. Painting with repeated dots that form larger patterns is her way of dealing with the visual and aural hallucinations that have afflicted her since childhood: since 1975 she has chosen to live in a psychiatric hospital. She sees her art as therapy: “I have been grappling with art as a therapy for my disease, but I suppose I would not be able to know how people would evaluate my art until after I die. I create art for the healing of all mankind.””

 

Plant: Exploring the Botanical World

For more important floral imagery created by both artists and scientists, order a copy of Plant: Exploring the Botanical World here.


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Phaidon is the premier global publisher of the creative arts with over 1,500 titles in print. We work with the world's most influential artists, chefs, writers and thinkers to produce innovative books on art, photography, design, architecture, fashion, food and travel, and illustrated books for children. Phaidon is headquartered in London and New York City.
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