Tomokazu Matsuyama

On the days I’m working, I like to take mini walks often going around streets nearby my workplace, even ending up in gardens and parks on the outskirts of the CBD. Of course, there’s plenty of different routes around the city and last week I felt like pacing through Collins St for some window shopping therapy.

That wasn’t the case as soon as I saw a colorful corflute sign in front of 101 Collins St, “Outside looking in Tomokazu Matsuyama”. The entrance to the artists’ exhibition was via Flinders Lane so I took a shortcut through an alley to get to the other side. It’s a nice office building with lots of space – enough to accommodate a peaceful cafe right opposite the gallery.

Lesley Kehoe Galleries hosted the exhibition and specializes in selling art with a focus on exhibiting Japanese works. It’s an awesome space designed to be timeless with interiors reflecting Japanese aesthetic. It feels cinematic when you walk through a short hallway and not too long after you’re presented with a spacious exhibition room.

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Thanks to the colorful corflute signage on the walkway,  I’m glad I knew about Tomokazu Matsuyama now than later. A New York based Japanese artist, he works in the comfort of his own space in Brooklyn where he has his own freedom to explore combining East and West imagery but is particularly influenced by his Japanese heritage. Some of his works reminded me of KAWS – only that it’s more detailed and geometric – the colours show up vibrantly.

Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow

In my last post featuring a video of my trip, you’ll notice some of the footage was taken at the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the National Gallery of Singapore.

I sign up to a lot of art and design news and thankfully one source told me some of Kusama’s pieces have landed in Singapore. Just like the KAWS exhibition, the trip was mildly planned around this given that we flew with Singapore Airlines, Mom suggested to stop by Singapore for a couple of days. We do love visiting Singapore every now and then especially since their airport is so accommodating and the city is usually our main stopover to Jakarta.

I first heard about Yayoi Kusama when I saw a Louis Vuitton shopfront a couple of years ago. She collaborated with LV and this is what it looked like (courtesy of Louis Vuitton and Yayoi Kusama): yellow-dots red-dots black-dotsgeorge-clooneyrei

Yep that’s George Clooney for the cover of W magazine and yep, that’s Yayoi in her trademark polka dot outfit. It is considered as one of the most successful art collaborations with a fashion house. The dots however aren’t seen as completely a playful pattern. Kusama says these dots are a representation of her childhood hallucinations where she constantly experienced reoccurring visions of repeating patterns during the events of World War II. Her work can be seen as a means of therapy for Kusama and even for viewers – a therapy of confronting a fear by representing it on a grand scale.

She spent lots of time hand painting polka dots or “infinite nets” as she refers them to in her life. They applied them onto canvasses, sculptures and then onto everything else that was a part of her life, even her body. Kusama’s family had their own plant nursery and she drew pumpkins and flowers with dots. She is literally the queen of polka dots.
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I’m a fan of polka dots (not to the extremities of Kusama) so I was eventually lured into Louis Vuitton that day. I was fascinated by their shop design and their new range of leather-goods. It was like walking into an art installation, learning more about who Yayoi Kusama was.

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The Yayoi cake in the cafeteria after the exhibition!

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My current read is “Yayoi Kusama: Inventing the Singular” by lecturer, Midori Yamamura. A great read if you want to dig deep into Kusama’s life events, many of which affected the art she’s created to date. 

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KAWS: Where the End Starts Shanghai Exhibition

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By far the most favorite exhibition of mine is this one.

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There was a time last year my Mom came home with a few KAWS T-shirts from Uniqlo and I was wondering how on earth could she possibly know who KAWS is. I questioned my Mom and her response was, “what’s a KAWS? I just got these shirts because the designs are so cute and on sale.”

“Mami, oh my god. KAWS is awesome, your shirts are awesome, you’re awesome for buying them. Oh my gosh. Can’t. Stop. Smiling. I need to go to Uniqlo. Now.” I couldn’t help but repeat how much I worship KAWS’ works in front of my Mom.

Fast forward to this year, KAWS announced his next major exhibition in Shanghai and I was telling my Mom how much I wanted to go. The idea of going to Shanghai was always floating in my mind but nah, I thought it’d be ridiculous to go all the way for an exhibition. Then Dad brought up how he wanted to visit China for a holiday and has been getting emails about special deals. I thought, why not. Let’s just go.

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Brian Donnelly, known as KAWS, started as a graffiti artist and has been long regarded as a pop artist and designer. He’s collaborated with some of my favorite brands, especially with Medicom toys who produce Bearbricks. His sculptures can be as small as 10cm and as tall as 10 meters high. In contrast to his sculptures, the shape of his canvas paintings mimic the silhouette of popular culture characters such as Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang. His acrylic paintings are mesmerizing to look at because of how clean his painting style is – they all look like printed canvases once you see it in person. At times I didn’t believe they were paintings. Solid blocks of color are evenly applied to properly communicate the 2D subjects in his work. KAWS uses cartoons as subjects because of his inspiration going to Japan early in his life. Cartoons are universally understood, unlike regular politics. Cartoons communicate better and are always embraced by people.

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Thanks to the owner of Yuz Museum, Budi Tek, for bringing this exhibition to life and creating such a wonderful space for it. Being able to walk around the art, seeing it clearly up-close and from afar gave it a sense of structure and intimacy. Looking at the Companion sculptures across the space, there’s heaps of those “awww” moments, especially when you first walk in and peer up at the giant Clean Slate sculpture. I hope a KAWS exhibition will happen in Melbourne sometime soon. If there’s a KAWS exhibition or installation nearby, you better go check it out.

A right-brainer by day and occasional blogger by night, you've landed on a place where I live and breathe all things art, design, culture and fashion. You'll find me documenting my life in the creative field, endless travels with friends and family and a bit of food.

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