Chiharu Shiota's is best known for her mixed-media web-like art installations using yarn in combination with an array of objects. Shiota confronts her own experiences by cultivating special spaces with a physical and emotional passage in mind.Read More
Shiota's life experiences—of leaving her country and facing illness as a young woman—are woven into her practice, which, in its grace, welcomes others to co-exist. Works such as Memory of Skin (2000) saw inordinately long dresses hung high and constantly dripping with water. These dresses were a metaphor for cyclical thoughts. Installations that incorporated empty beds, such as During Sleep (2000), heralded a similar feeling. In these symbolic objects, thoughtfully framed by colour, the viewer finds cues to birth, sickness and death.
Now settled in Berlin, the artist' more recent artworks are characterised by a mixture of performance, sculpture and drawing in space with found objects mostly woven into yarn webs. From a collection of mismatched shoes to suitcases, dresses, keys, pages from a book, bed frames and doors, the materials she introduces have lived elsewhere but are summoned as an artery for a personal and collective psychological experience.
When Shiota suspends mementoes in tessellating string, the viewer is led to think about both containment and protection. In The Key in the Hand, presented at the 2015 Venice Biennale in the Japan Pavilion, plumes of red yarn were dotted with keys. These inverted waves floated above a series of boats like hands.
In a conversation with Ocula Magazine in 2016, Shiota said of her use of yarn, 'It is soft and I use it like a mirror of my feelings ... Yarn has tension like a human relationship.' While line and materiality are obvious keynotes in her work, colour is critical. Chiharu Shiota exclusively selects red, black or white yarn for the pregnant and hollowed spaces she creates.
The metaphor is not didactic, her audience is invited to associate meaning or feeling with colour. Black has historically accompanied works exploring illness and death, such as Conscious Sleep (2016), for the 20th Biennale of Sydney, whereas snow-like threads swathe boats with a hopeful energy in Chiharu Shiota's Where are we going? (2017) and Memory of the Ocean (2017), both displayed at Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche, Paris. Prior to working almost exclusively with red, Chiharu's use of black yarn and symbolic objects pointed to the inexplicability of the universe and pain.
It's not difficult to imagine that Shiota's continued use of red is emblematic of a journey, the movement of blood through our veins or the 'fated path' red string represents in Japanese, Chinese and Korean cultures. Red couples positivity and pathos. For example, in a red yarn installation Dialogue From DNA (2004) we are attune to both loss and the inevitability of change. In Uncertain Journey (2019) that explores themes of the unpredictable journey of life, red yarn simultaneously suggests veins and nerves, and the complex web of ever evolving human connection.
Traces of Maring Abramović's influence and others can be found in the sustained performative elements of Chiharu's practice. From the early 2000s, the artist made a number of video works in which the artists body was a key element.
As part of some of the early Bed-based instillations such as Breathing from the Earth (2000) and During Sleep (2002), the artist herself or other women carried out performative actions getting in and out of the beds.
In the 2010 video Wall, the artist's body is entangled in tubes carrying a blood-like substance. In simulating these external restrictions, the artist explores the metaphorical walls within her own blood: race, culture, gender and other sources of artificial human boundaries of division.