Not unlike the myth, Narcissus garden mesmerises


QAGOMA Foundation Future Collective member Rosemary Willink shares some thoughts on her Collection favourite — Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus garden 1966/2002.

Yayoi Kusama is everywhere right now. By this I mean she is the subject of large retrospective exhibitions worldwide and her work is captured, circulated and seen by millions of people every day on social media. So why choose a work from the Collection that has most likely already been ‘liked’ by everyone?

For three years I had the pleasure of working in the Queensland Art Gallery building, designed by architect Robin Gibson AO (1930–2014), and recently placed on the Queensland Heritage Register. From my vantage point, I could peer down into the Watermall, a particularly challenging space to exhibit artworks. More than the logistics of installing precious works of art over water, the space itself — its visual logic of filtered light and coarse concrete surfaces — places its own demands on the works displayed.

Huang Yong Ping’s Ressort 2012, the serpent spiral, faced this challenge head on through its menacing scale and sense of movement, while Ai Weiwei’s chandelier sculpture Boomerang 2006 emanated an incandescent glow that, on its own terms, measured up to the Watermall.

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Huang Yong Ping, China b.1954 / Ressort 2012 / Aluminium, stainless steel / 53m (length) / Commissioned 2012 with funds from Tim Fairfax AM through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Huang Yong Ping / Photograph: Mark Sherwood © QAGOMA
Ai Weiwei, China b.1957 / Boomerang 2006 / Glass lustres, plated steel, electric cables, incandescent lamps / Gift of the artist through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2007 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Ai Weiwei / Photograph: Natasha Harth © QAGOMA

For this reason, I’ve selected Kusama’s Narcissus garden 1966/2002 as my favourite Collection work. Narcissus, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is ‘a beautiful youth who rejected the nymph Echo and fell in love with his own reflection in a pool. He pined away and was changed into the flower that bears his name’. Comprised of approximately 2000 mirrored balls, the work is shaped by both the currents and the limits of the water. Clusters and constellations are formed, reflecting the building’s architecture back onto itself from an infinite number of angles. Not unlike the myth, there is a dreamy yet sinister aspect to the work — it mesmerises at the same time that it forces one to look away. Narcissus garden has appeared in other gallery spaces, but the challenge and metaphor of the iteration in water make it my favourite.

So I admire this work from a safe distance — a distance that allows me to consider and reflect on the expanding role of architecture in art or, indeed, architecture as art.

Rosemary Willink has been a QAGOMA Foundation Future Collective Member since 2016.

Installation view of Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus garden 1966/2002, QAG Watermall 2017 / © Yayoi Kusama, Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc / Photograph: Chloe Callistemon © QAGOMA

Featured image: Yayoi Kusama, Japan b.1929 / Narcissus garden 1966/2002 / Stainless steel balls / 2000 balls (approx.) / Gift of the artist through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2002 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Yayoi Kusama, Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc / Photograph: Ray Fulton © QAGOMA