Yayoi Kusama and The (Irritating?) Interactors

The first time I heard of her was when my prof in university showed me her work as a reference a couple years ago. Still a vague-sounding Japanese artist to a noob student like me then, she became more and more well-known in Singapore, with her work printed on Louis Vuitton bags and now, the ultimate mass publicity of all, the exhibition Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Life is a Heart of The Rainbow’ in the National Gallery. This is perhaps the most popular exhibition I have visited so far… in terms of the most number of visitors, most photographed, and most hashtagged. When I went there on a weekday afternoon after work, the queue at the ticketing office was longer than usual, and the staff admitted they had been busy for ‘the past few months’.

The walkway from the MRT station that leads to the National Gallery – conspicuously Kusama.

Polka dot… and mirror. Two of the most important elements in Kusama’s work

I am not going to describe so much about her work to avoid spoiling the experience of those who have yet to visit. So I will just share some snippets of my experience in the exhibition in relation to the fellow visitors:

The first hall contains paintings from her formative years of pattern exploration. I leaned forward as I was wondering how she executed such perfect brushstrokes and shapes, examining the little details and imagining the possible methods… when I saw a lady touching another painting next to me with her index finger.

I felt irritated instantly. What is she doing and why?? I mean, even if you don’t know basic museum etiquette, shouldn’t you stay away from touching something that is barricaded for a reason? Since she stopped doing that immediately, I just rolled my eyes and walked away. Even if you feel that your fingers are clean and you only touch gently, or if the tactile quality of the artwork make your hands itch), just don’t touch anything (unless you are specifically invited to do so). It may not even be only about artwork per se, but also things in general. If something does not belong to you, what gives you the right to disturb it? Our fingers have a thin layer of oil that may accelerate the degeneration of the paint. Or for whatever reason. Just keep your hands to yourself.

One of her ‘Infinity Nets’ large-scale paintings

The closer look at the painting

Then I arrived at the first installation, which is a yellow room of black polka dots with a mirror box in the middle called ‘The Spirits of The Pumpkins Descended into The Heavens’. I managed to enter the room after 20 minutes of queuing, and I waited again for my turn to take a peek into the peephole on the mirror box that was put in the middle of the room. There were a mom with her two small kids waiting behind me, and the kids were left wandering inside the room. Of course the kids were curious of what was inside the box and started to attempt to climb the steps that led to the peephole, slightly obstructing the people who were having their turn. What made me roll my eyes was the fact that the mom did not do anything to stop her children… So she just let the situation run its course, as if it was cool if her kids cut someone else’s turn. Erm… ok.

Waiting to enter the polka dot room

The next hall houses the famous light room ‘Infinity Mirrored Room – Gleaming Lights of The Souls’. Similar with the previous installation, I was queueing for about 20 minutes to enter this room. I did not know what to expect of what to see inside, so I just made a mental note to myself not to ‘touch the lights’ or ‘get off the platform’ according to what the signs said.

Suddenly something happened. Around 5 minutes before my turn to go in, someone shrieked from inside. The visitors froze for a while. What happened inside? Should we be worried? The museum staff went into the room to attend to the matter. Did they knock on something? Did they step out of the platform? I wondered. Is something broken? Are they going to close down the installation? (just before I can go in!) But people in front of me continued to talk again, as if nothing had happened. No announcement. Nothing. The queue moved forward again, so I concluded nothing serious had happened. And indeed it was the case, as my turn to go in finally arrived.

The museum sitter ushered me in and told me that I only had 20 seconds inside… I suddenly felt a jolt of panic. I quickly prepared the camera function on my phone, trying to capture the scene quickly and to have enough time to enjoy it with my own eyes without the camera. And then they knocked the door three times. The time was up. The description in the brochure that says it ‘invite(s) contemplation in an infinitely repeating, expanded space’ is questionable. There was just no time to contemplate.

My effort in taking a picture in the light room

When I moved to the next hall, a child (who happened to be in the same group of the lady who touched the painting) brought in an opened packet of biscuits into the gallery. The museum staff happened to see it and and politely told the kid to finish it before he could go in to see the exhibition. To be frank all the museum staff that I met that day were friendly and helpful, despite some difficult visitors that I described.

The next hall has a lot of big paintings. And when you have a lot of big paintings, people tend to make it a background to their picture, because they are big, and they look really good (to be fair the exhibition so far had been Instagram-worthy). However, many were just taking too long, snapping many poses at different angles. I mean I am not trying to be this puritan art critique who feels artwork has to be enjoyed in its purest way: looking at a painting, thinking of what could possibly be the meaning while stroking our chin. By all means, take picture for documentation, take picture to maintain your persona on your Instagram account (the museum even provides a hashtag #sgloveskusama for social media purposes), but think of others who want to enjoy the exhibition as well. Perhaps you can step aside and check the string of photos you have just taken. Let other people approach the artwork before you resume the pursuit of taking the perfect photograph.

Having said that, I too decided to take a selfie in front of the painting in an attempt to recreate the publicity poster (see below). Due to the lack of red wig and sharp glare, the attempt failed ;p

Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Life is The Heart of A Rainbow’

The publicity poster

Despite all what I wrote above, the exhibition was a good one 🙂

Yayoi Kusama ‘Lide is The Heart of A Rainbow’ opens at the National Gallery from 9 Jun to 3 Sep 2017

Check out their website for admission matters.

Advertisements

M.C. Escher Exhibition at ArtScience Museum

Journey to Infinity: Escher’s World of Wonder

A few days ago I visited M.C. Escher exhibition on another Educators’ Event conducted by ArtScience Museum, Singapore. (The museum has been religious in their effort to extend the wonder of art and science to its beneficiaries – the students).

M.C. Escher has been a household name in art discussions, and as far as my limited knowledge went, I had always known him for his optical illusion art. I am sure we are all quite familiar with some of his work:

Relativity

‘Relativity’ (1953), which reminds me of Doraemon’s gravity paint…

doraemon-gravity-paint

Doraemon’s Gravity Paint’s effect. I love this chapter of Doraemon. Heartwarming ending (OK, different topic)

Some other popular works by Escher:

Penrose Stairs. Popularised by the 2010 movie 'Inception'

‘Ascending and Descending’ (1960), an artistic implementation of the Penrose stairs (one of impossible objects). Popularised by the 2010 movie ‘Inception’, and (I believe) the inspiration of award-winning, graphically-awesome game ‘Monument Valley…

monument-valley

One of Monument Valley mazes

 

The omniscient 'Sky and Water'

‘Sky and Water I’ (1938). You can spot this graphic printed on many places, most likely on a hipster’s tote bag.

‘Day and Night’. A very cool, mindboggling symmetry.

And this one…

Level of Reality

‘Drawing Hands’ (1948)

So yeap, I thought I was quite familiar with his body of work, and I thought I knew what to expect when I went there. But…

Have you heard of people saying that seeing real paintings is such an entirely different experience from seeing the pictures in books or online? Well, it was not until I went to this exhibition that I could really appreciate that saying.

Most of Escher’s works are not so big, and they are framed and hung on the walls of the exhibition space.  I got to stand really close to scrutinize his lines. Close enough to see that the work is done by Escher’s own hands, and at the same time to be mind-blown by the fact that it is looking humanely impossibly perfect. (Take note that these works were produced from around 1910s to 1960s during which no digital enhancement could possibly be done. What kind of sorcery is this? I thought to myself with mouth agape).  This exhibition is also an eye-opener to the potential of traditional printing methods (especially lithography and wood cut) in creating jaw-dropping works.

And there are works that made me feel amazed for the fact they looked very advanced for the time, and can easily pass for something that is done today.

‘Puddle’ (1952). A very unusual subject, feels very contemporary.

And then there is his brilliance in producing works that tickle the mind.

We are all familiar with a simple tessellation (an arrangement of shapes in a repeated pattern without gaps and overlapping) like this:

Your bathroom tile?

However, his works show that the term ‘tesselation’ can mean so much more:

'Horsemen' (1946). How... ?

‘Horsemen’ (1946). How on earth could he think of this?

 

And there are many other awesome works that I will not disclose further here. See them for yourself!

FYI. Like other exhibitions held in the fingers of the museum, this exhibition is divided into a few segments:

  • Early works: Art Nouveau and Nature (Escher was really into nature)
  • Metamorphosis
  • Tesselation
  • Commercial Works
  • Exploring The Infinity
  • Escher Mania (Escher-inspired works, mainly in pop culture)

At the end of the tour, the tour guide asked us which work was our favorite. I paused for a while, thinking, and I replied, “I don’t know, there are so many… (mention a few titles)…”

She asked again, “but which one do you like the most?”

I paused again, only to reply after that, “I really don’t know.”

Hermes, Nobel Prize, Collider Exhibitions at ArtScience Museum

Last week I had a chance to catch a few exhibitions at the ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. They are: Leather Forever by Hermes exhibition, Ideas Changing The World (about the Nobel Prize) and Collider (yep, the Large Haldron Collider built by CERN… if you read Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons before, this thing was a major element in the plot, and it is real…). Anddd… it is free admission for the first two! (check out the museum site for the ticketing and opening periods http://www.marinabaysands.com/museum.html)

I had looked forward to visiting all 3 of them so much, as someone interested in leather, art, science and in general stuff and affairs…

We all know and have heard about Hermes, the household brand of luxury leather bags (as someone who is not really following haute couture, I could even vaguely mention the names of the bags… like Birkin, Kelly…). I kinda had some expectations about the exhibition… lines of its famed bags… some history…

True, it is like that – and so much more. The historytelling is packaged in the 12 rooms that take place in the fingers that lend the museum its famous lotus shape. As we move from one room to another, we transcend to another realm that emphasizes on a particular aspect/ feature/ philosophy of the company, thanks to the thoughtful space design, innovative exhibition design and apt (hint: fun) interactive parts 😆 all these help create an immersive world for the audience who want to get more of the taste of Hermes – the high-rank fashionistas and the fashion noobs alike. True enough, I saw an impeccably stylish female tourist taking pictures of every single bag on display (forgive me for the stereotyping, but this is the first time I saw someone who might rather spend time shopping at Marina Bay Sands being too engrossed with specimens in a museum). And I have enjoyed it myself as well.

Here is a teaser photo from the exhibition. I should not spill the beans too much, as it takes away some of the delight derived from unexpectedly seeing something for the first time😆

A glimpse to the quirkiness of the display

 

The Nobel Prize exhibition showcases the history of the prize and its recipients over the year – the notable ones that we read in the encyclopedias when we were young (Marie Curie, Guglielmo Marconi…), and the relatively less heard or more recent ones (Francis Crick, Sydney Brenner…). I came to admire the vision of Mr Nobel, who included literature and economics as two of the fields to be awarded along side physics, chemistry, medicine and peace-making. Scrolling through the interactive monitor, I also marvelled at how people dedicated their lifetime for a cause, something that has brought significant impact to the world.

nobelswill

The 4-page (real?) Alfred Nobel’s will on display. Standing in front of it, I was overwhelmed with a moment of immediate reverence.

 

Coincidentally, Collider seemed to be like the extension of the Nobel one, as it starts by showing the big figures of the modern physics like Niels Bohr and Schroedinger… (who also received a Nobel Prize each). To put the collider in my own inept words: it is a ring-shaped tunnel in which electrons are accelerated to a very high speed and by doing that, more sub-atomic particles are generated, and then examined. This project has led to the confirmation of the existence of Higgs bosons, or what commonly dubbed by the popular media as ‘the God Particles’ and are believed to be the particles which give mass to matter.

Unlike the first two exhibitions, Collider gives a more toned-down display, purposefully giving a sense of being in its lab in Geneva to the audience. The passageway is recreated like that of the corridor of the office. It’s humanizing one of the massive, pivotal projects in the human history.

collider

Interesting trivia facts found in the notice board of the ‘office’:)

 

It was indeed a good afternoon at the museum:)