A maze of emotions – Works by Chiharu Shiota

Webs – lots of them, dark and entangled messes that are impossible to escape from yet irresistibly catching your attention.  Using these threads to ‘draw’ and leave a visible mark in her installations, artist Chiharu Shiota illustrates the otherwise invisible energy emitting from objects around us, dresses, burnt-out pianos, charred chairs, hospital beds and sometimes, the artist herself.

Currently based in Berlin, Germany, Shiota was born in Osaka, Japan in 1972.  Her education in Germany, with classmates like Marina Abramovic, provided a key element to the pictorial language of her works, which occasionally merges performance and installation art.  Her installations remind me of works by Louise Bourgeois and Rebecca Horn, pioneers of conceptual and installation artworks that are exceptionally moving.

Shiota is best known for her installations using black threads.  Very often, they fill up an entire room, creating a poetic atmosphere of unspoken emotions, held together only by the thin threads.  Recurring themes in her works revolve around the ideas of remembrance and oblivion, memories and childhood, and dealing with anxieties.  Her works also tread between the fine lines of reality and fantasy, the artist explained, “When I dream… I feel the dream as reality. I can’t distinguish between dream and reality. When I wake up, I have the feeling I’m still dreaming.”

In Silence, Solo Show Detached – Tasmania Museum & Art Gallery Cooperation with Museum of Old and New Art, Curator: Olivier Varenne (Tasmania) Australia, © Chiharu Shiota

ARCO-Madrid 2010, Galería Nieves Fernández (Madrid) Spain, © Chiharu Shiota

The artist weaves the threads manually, translating it into an artistic process of endurance and construction.  The threads represent physical anxieties the artist experienced.  Shiota says, “The creation with threads is a reflection of my own feelings. A thread can be replaced by feeling. If I weave something and it turns out to be ugly, twisted or knotted, then such must have been my feelings when I was working.”

Installation at Haunch of Venison 2010, Haunch of Venison (London) U.K., © Peter Mallet

Unconscious Anxiety at Galerie Christophe Gaillard, Paris, France, © Chiharu Shiota

The above work first caught my attention and developed my curiosity towards the artist.  It could very well have been mistaken for a fashion showcase but on closer look, the installation brought more focus to the spaces around the dress, as opposed to the dress itself.  The energy surrounding the dress seemed fitting for its title Unconscious Anxiety, perhaps a reflection of the artist’s feelings to the wedding dress and the act of marriage itself.

X Sybil

(All images from Chiharu Shiota’s website)

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