Yayoi Kusama @ Victoria Miro


The Victoria Miro Gallery on Wharf Road is situated in a vastly different location to its Mayfair counterpart. The surrounding area is predominantly residential and it appears to be lacking in luxury boutiques and swanky restaurants. In fact, you have to pass a petrol station and a McDonalds to get to it. Yet this unassuming space boasts one of the most beautiful hidden gardens in London that has currently sprouted several pumpkins in time for autumn.

The pumpkins that have emerged in the water garden have been ‘planted’ by Yayoi Kusama. Unlike the majority of the work that the artist is most famous for, these bronze vegetables are not brightly coloured. Instead of trying to grab our attention the squash lies unassumingly with no signs of any added artificial colour. The natural browns of the bronze compliment the brown decking on which they are supported, as well as the dark green leaves of the surrounding vegetation and the lighter shades of algae floating on top of the water’s surface. And, while Kusama has moved away from the bright colours of which she is most famous, the pumpkins are still covered with her trademarks spots, which serve only to compliment the silver orbs that already reside in the garden’s water prior to the growth of the marrows, having been left from an earlier exhibition by the artist in 2008. In short, no location could be better suited to these sculptures.

For us in the west, the pumpkin is eponymous with autumn, colder weather and Halloween. For Kusama however, it has a different meaning. The artist’s family made their living cultivating plant seeds and keeping nurseries. The squash has appeared in her work since 1948 in a variety of different forms, however the new crop at Victoria Miro are the biggest yet. The ones here are huge, almost human height with a much wider girth. In various interviews Kusama has described the humble pumpkin as having a ‘generous unpretentiousness’ and also of being a ’symbol of peace and the sacredness of the bond between nature and humanity.’ This seems to sum up perfectly the experience of being in the water garden at Victoria Miro, which has an air of serenity and calm.

For those looking for a taste of tranquility away from the hustle and bustle of inner city London life I highly suggest you sample Kusama’s pumpkins before they are uprooted at the end of December.

Yayoi Kusama: Bronze Pumpkins are on display at Victoria Miro until 19 December

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer with a special interest in contemporary Middle Eastern Art. She has a BA in Art History and an MA in Contemporary Art and Art Theory of Asia and Africa from the School of Oriental and African Studies. She runs the Gallery Girl blog and also writes for After Nyne, Ibraaz and Reorient.

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