Eyes Are Singing Out by Yayoi Kusama

Eyes Are Singing Out by Yayoi Kusama

The permanent public art installation at the Queen Elizabeth II Courts of Law was awarded top honours at this year’s State Architecture Awards, recognising the Queensland College of Art’s Jay Younger, Architectus and Guymer Bailey Architects.


Associate Professor Younger as curator, led the project since its commencement in 2008 through to its completion last year. The result incorporates three generations and cultures from three of the most influential female artists in the world.


Yayoi Kusama, acknowledged as one of the most important and celebrated living artists to come out of Japan was commissioned alongside Sally Gabori, a Kaiadilt elder from the Southern Gulf of Carpenteria who has ignited international enthusiasm for her paintings after only picking up a paintbrush seven years ago; and Gemma Smith, an up-and-coming Australian artist in her 30s.


Collision and Improvisation by Gemma Smith

Collision and Improvisation (Ceiling) by Gemma Smith. Photo by John Gollings.

The works comprise a 90 metre long piece entitled Eyes Are Singing Out from Kusama, which may be the largest permanent artwork ever undertaken by the artist; a painting Dibirdibi Country by Gabori that runs the length of the wall behind the judge’s bench in the Banco court; and a hand-painted abstract piece on the court’s entry ceiling by Smith, reminiscent of trompe l’oeil spatial illusions popular in the Baroque period.


Associate Professor Younger has a thirty year history as an artist, curator, and lecturer and says the artworks like the building itself, are one of Queensland’s most important expressions of democracy and articulate democratic values through varying perspectives.


“At the heart of these public artworks is that freedom of artistic expression, offering varying perspectives is a meaningful signifier of active democratic values,” she says.


“Rather than a world where all share the same known views and difference is not tolerated, in contrast the excitement of encountering a view that is unfamiliar can be seen as a celebration of difference.


“Each of the artist’s work has been made with a spontaneous feeling that complements the unembellished qualities of the building.”


She also notes Eyes Are Singing Out spans the entire city block between Roma and George Streets and reveals the inner workings of the courts.


“In a time when public accountability is of the utmost importance, Kusama’s eyes not only look back at you, they surround the courts with looking, unblinking eyes, forever watching.”


“It is suggestive of a watchful public and Kusama reminds us that it is through the experience of sight that our humanity and our empathy for others is instigated and negotiated.


“These artistic commissions are extraordinary endeavours that are rarely, if ever, able to be realised in an artist’s lifetime and may never be again for two of the artists, simply because of their age,” she said.


The award was presented at the Queensland Architecture Awards on Friday 21 June at the Australian Institute of Architects Award Ceremony.