🔖 3 min read

What do you see when you look at a circle? For most, it’s just that – a circular line creating earth, sun or ball shape. But for the world-renowned, Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, these circles take on a new life form. They embody her highly recognisable polka dot style, which as well as her pumpkins and infinity rooms, make for some fantastically weird art!

Yayoi Kusama’s extraordinary journey in becoming a contemporary art icon has now been brought to life in a new graphic novel by Elisa Macellari, Kusama: a graphic biography. The graphic biography will tell the story of Kusama’s incredible life story and is packed full of dreamy illustrations that capture her art and magic. 

Graphic biographies have seen an increasing amount of popularity in the last few years. They combine the sights, sounds, and feel of a story all at once in an illustrated scene.

The author of the book, Elisa Macellari is a Thai-Italian illustrator. She describes herself as liking colourful things and strange objects, both of which are found in abundance in Kusama’s work. Her clients include The New York Times and Nobrow Press, and her first graphic was Papaya Salad (2018). Kusama: a graphic biography, is due to be released September 14th, 2020, and is the third book in Laurence King’s Graphic Lives series, following Basquiat and Pollock Confidential.

Photo Credit: Laurence King
Photo Credit: Laurence King

The Work of Yayoi Kusama

For those who may have missed her eye-catching infinity rooms, giant pumpkins, or powerful polka dot prints in galleries and museums around the world, including the ‘The Moving Moment When I Went To The Universe’ exhibition at the Victoria Miro in 2018, Kusama’s signature style is unique. Daring and colourful, her style is more than striking. She works with sculpture and installation but also painting, performance, film, fashion, poetry, fiction, and other arts. 

Infinity Mirror Rooms, one of Kusama’s latest exhibitions was due to open at Tate Modern in May but due to coronavirus, will now be shown next spring. The video below talks through how Kusama has harnessed her overflowing creativity and turned it into an art form. 

“She was on a train to stardom. She knew actually what she wanted to do. She had a suitcase full of drawings and she set about selling herself.” Curator of Yayoi Kusama, Frances Morris, Tate 2012

Her Life Story

Like many artists, her life is as fascinating as her work – making for an interesting read! Growing up in Nagano, her career as an artist took her from rural Japan to the bright lights of the big apple (NYC) and back to contemporary Tokyo. Before developing the style that she’s best known for today, she trained at the Kyoto School of Arts and Crafts in a traditional Japanese painting style called ‘nihonga’. 

Throughout her life has used art to help her navigate her struggles with mental health. She describes her work as ‘art medicine’. Today, she lives in a psychiatric hospital yet always finds the time to continue to create, maintaining her profession as a highly respected artist. 

At 91, still, she shows no signs of slowing down. Recently, she shared a comforting poem with the world about the coronavirus pandemic showing that she’s still a relevant voice for international arts and culture. Read the poem here.

Yayoi Kusama remains an influential, outstanding voice in the art world and a tireless advocate for mental health. This illustrated story of her life will make for a fascinating and remarkable read, providing many of her fans the opportunity to discover more about her incredible story.

To pre-order the book, visit the Waterstones website.