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Exploring the Artistic World of Yoko Ono: From Instruction Paintings to Iconic Collaborations


Yoko Ono, an avant-garde artist, musician, and peace activist, has consistently challenged the boundaries of art and culture since the 1960s. Her work spans various media, including performance art, music, film, and painting. Ono is especially renowned for her innovative and interactive painting concepts which invite the audience to engage directly with the artwork. In this article, we delve into some of her most famous painting works, such as “Instruction Paintings,” “Ceiling Painting,” and her collaborations, including those with John Lennon.

Yoko Ono Paintings and Instruction Paintings

Yoko Ono’s art is deeply influenced by her association with the Fluxus movement, which emphasised artistic process over completed works of art and valued simplicity. Her “Instruction Paintings” embody this philosophy. These works are essentially sets of instructions that Ono provides to the audience, encouraging them to partake in the completion of the artwork. This could involve physical activities or mental engagement, where the viewer’s imagination completes the work. For example, her “Painting to Be Stepped On” invites viewers to walk on a piece of canvas, thereby leaving their mark and becoming part of the art-making process.

Yoko Ono - A Groundbreaking Artist, Activist and Fighter behind the Myth of her Name | Widewalls
Courtesy: Widewalls

Ceiling Painting Yoko Ono

One of her most famous Instruction Paintings is “Ceiling Painting,” created in 1966. It features a canvas mounted on the ceiling with a ladder leading up to it. At the top of the ladder, a magnifying glass hangs by a chain, which participants can use to view a small word on the canvas: “YES.” This piece is emblematic of Ono’s optimistic and inclusive approach to art, as it requires viewer participation to complete the experience and carries a positive message.

CEILING PAINTING 1966 | by Yoko Ono Climb up a ladder. Look … | Flickr
CEILING PAINTING 1966 | by Yoko Ono Climb up a ladder. Look … | Courtey: Flickr

John Lennon and Yoko Ono Painting

Yoko Ono’s relationship with John Lennon significantly influenced her artistic output. The couple collaborated on many artistic projects, most famously the “Bed-Ins for Peace.” While not a painting in the traditional sense, this performance art piece functioned similarly to her other works, in that it blurred the lines between artist and audience, and between life and art. Their collaborations often emphasised themes of peace and unity, central to both of their works.

Bed-ins for peace - Wikipedia
Bed-ins for peace| courtesy: Wikipedia

Smoke Painting Yoko Ono

Another intriguing aspect of Ono’s art is her “Smoke Painting,” which involves the use of smoke as a medium to create fleeting, ethereal images on canvas, further emphasising the transient nature of life and art. The transient quality of these works speaks to impermanence, a theme often explored in Ono’s art, resonating with the Buddhist concept of all things being transient and impermanent.

Yoko Ono. Smoke Painting. 1961 | MoMA
Yoko Ono. Smoke Painting. 1961 | Courtesy: MoMA

Continuing Influence and Legacy

Yoko Ono continues to be a significant figure in the art world, not only for her groundbreaking contributions in the past but also for her ongoing efforts to promote peace and solidarity through art. Her works, particularly the “Instruction Paintings,” have inspired a new generation of artists interested in participatory art and the use of “instructions” as a medium.

Yoko Ono's 22 Instructions for Paintings | Magazine | MoMA
Yoko Ono’s 22 Instructions for Paintings | Courtesy: MoMA

Yoko Ono’s approach has opened up new possibilities in the art world, highlighting an immersive experience that relies on audience interaction. Her influence is evident across contemporary art forms, and her works remain relevant as they continue to challenge and inspire audiences worldwide.


Yoko Ono’s paintings and art projects stand as profound, influential contributions to contemporary art. They challenge the viewers’ perceptions and encourage direct participation, thereby breaking down the barriers between the artwork and the audience. In exploring Ono’s paintings and collaborative projects, one not only gains insight into her unique artistic vision but also into the broader possibilities of what art can be—engaging, thought-provoking, and ultimately transformative.


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