‘ My Infinity Net paintings and Accumulation works had different origins from the European monochrome works. They were about an obsession: infinite repetition. In the 1960s, I said: "I feel as if I were driving on the highways or carried on a conveyor belt without ending until my death. This is like continuing to drink thousands of cups of coffee or eating thousands of feet of macaroni... I am deeply terrified by the obsessions crawling over my body, whether they come within me or from outside. I fluctuate between feelings of reality and unreality."'
Painted in 2006, Yayoi Kusama’s monumental triptych Infinity Net (TWHOQ) is a hypnotic web of shimmering gold set against a ground of vivid orange. The painting was included in Kusama’s acclaimed 2013 retrospective Yayoi Kusama, A Dream I Dreamed, which toured internationally at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai, Seoul Arts Center, and the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung, among others. Triptychs from the artist's Infinity Net series are rare and the present work is rendered in lustrous acrylic paint, which Kusama has used since the beginning of the 1980s for its quick-drying properties; Infinity Net gleams as the delicacies of its contours subtly unfold across the canvas. Like billowing clouds or frothy waves, the meticulous and repetitive gold blurs swoop and conjoin across the orange ground. Her characteristic lace-like patterning shifts capriciously throughout Infinity Net , and to look at and comprehend the painting is to be brought along for an unpredictable journey of ocular discovery. Melding the observable and the spiritual, she deliberately obliterates the picture plane, and with each stroke of the brush, Kusama poignantly asks: ‘How deep was the mystery? Did infinite infinities exist beyond our own universe?’ (Y. Kusama, Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama, London, 2011, p. 23).
The net is an iconic motif for Kusama, an image that first came to the artist during a series of childhood hallucinations and one which she has continuously reincarnated throughout her career. ‘One day’, she said, ‘looking at a red flower-patterned table cloth on the table, I turned my eyes to the ceiling and saw the same red flower pattern everywhere, even on the window glass and posts. The room, my body, the entire universe was filled with it, my self was eliminated, and I had returned and been reduced to the infinity of eternal time and absolute space. This was not an illusion but reality’ (Y. Kusama, quoted in Yayoi Kusama , L. Hoptman, A. Tatehata and U. Kultermann (eds.), London, 2000, pp. 35-36). For Kusama, the nets offer an ‘endlessly repetitive rhythm’ and allow for limitless interpretation (Y. Kusama quoted in Yayoi Kusama , L. Neri and T. Goto (eds.), New York, 2012, p. 60). Kusama’s art Infinity Net, too, transcends all earthly concerns, as space dissolves, fragile and otherworldly.
Born in Japan, Kusama took a leap of faith and moved to New York City at the age of twenty-nine in 1958, with the dream of making a name for herself; she has retained, what she calls, a ‘consistent avant-garde approach to art’ (Y. Kusama quoted in Yayoi Kusama: Mirrored Years , exh. cat. City Gallery Wellington, 2009, p. 5). She debuted the Infinity Nets at her first solo exhibition, held the following year at the Brata Gallery, and her impact on the art world was profound and reverberated internationally. In a review published in ARTnews, Donald Judd called Kusama an ‘original painter’ and praised the works as ‘strong, advanced in concept, and realised’ (D. Judd, ‘Reviews and previews: new names this month’, ARTnews, October 1959, n. p.). The all-over aesthetic of the Infinity Nets positioned Kusama as the heir to her Abstract Expressionist forbearers, including Jackson Pollock and Barnett Newman, while her white, monochromatic canvases served as a forerunner to the then-nascent Minimalist movement that took hold in the 1960s and 1970s. Kusama’s lifelong fascination with a serialised infinity aligns her practice with that of Piero Manzoni, who was deeply invested in imaging boundlessness by developing new modes of representation that extended beyond the formal constraints of the canvas. Kusama’s own visual vocabulary, however, lacks the severity of Minimalist and Conceptual frameworks, instead evoking a capacious elasticity. In recent years, for example, the Infinity Nets have become three dimensional, encouraging both haptic and optic encounters, and her dream to reach infinity remains insatiable. For Kusama, art is a means of ‘self-obliteration’ in which she is reduced and returned to ‘the infinity of eternal time and the absolute of space’ (Y. Kusama, quoted in Yayoi Kusama , L. Hoptman, A. Tatehata and U. Kultermann (eds.), New York, 2000, p. 36). In Infinity Net, this obsession is evident in the blooming gold and overwhelming landscape of lines; it is a reach towards eternity.