Installation and performance artist Chiharu Shiota (b. Osaka, 1972) is best known for her monumental site-specific installations that fill up entire rooms with intricate webs of yarn. Everyday objects, such as suitcases, keys, beds, doors, boats and dresses, find themselves suspended or cocooned inside these labyrinthine installations. Shiota describes her installations as ‘drawings in the air’. The lines and the knots that her threads, almost always black or red, indicate her personal state of mind. “When I’m troubled the thread tangles up more irregularly and I make more knots. When I’m in a balanced mood, the weavings are more regular“, she has explained in one of her interviews.
She also weaves pathways and open spaces within her installations, encouraging the viewer to walk around and be a part of the installation and observe, experience and interpret them. The installation thus continues as a performance of sorts albeit devoid of the artist’s presence, with the viewer choosing to take one or more of these pathways that have been determined by Shiota. There is a constant blurring of lines between conscious and subconscious, wakefulness and dreaming. Each viewer’s experience is different, and Shiota has constantly shied away from giving absolute interpretations of her work, hoping to create an emotional impression rather than deliver a rational message, letting everyone have his or her own legitimate interpretation.
Chiharu Shiota: Destination at Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris
A solo show of Chiharu Shiota’s installations and canvases, “Chiharu Shiota: Destination” is currently on view at the two gallery spaces of Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris. Her main installation, Destination (2017) fills up one entire room in a giant tidal wave-like web of red yarn. The metallic hull of a boat is ensconced within this monumental yet delicate network of threads. The piece is reminiscent of her installation The Key in Hand (2015) which was shown at the Japanese Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale. A similar web of red yarn enveloped the rustic hulls of two wooden boats. Shiota linked 50,000 keys, collected from all over the world, which hung within and alongside these boats. Destination, although at first glance similar to The Key in Hand, marks a departure from it in that there are no old boats but a semblance of one. There is also a marked absence of used or previously owned objects, distinctive of Shiota’s practice.
Themes of memory, loss, belonging and desire have been central to her installations. Speaking of Destination, Shiota explains, “I have been using boats since my exhibition at the Japan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2015; I wanted to create one oversized boat representing the topics I have touched on in my most recent works. Ships carry people and time. They feature a defined direction, with no other choice but to keep moving forward. Though we may not know where we are heading, we can never stop. Life is a journey of uncertainty and wonder, and the boats symbolize the bearers of our dreams and hopes.”
The main installation is accompanied by a series of smaller sculpturesque installations with various objects – a microscope, a dress, a weapon – barely visible to the eye, enveloped inside webs of red yarn. The artist has also created a series titled Skin Paintings which features her distinctive thread work on canvases. One work that stands out, in particular, consists of an empty chair and sheets of paper suspended mid-air as if in a dream, enclosed within a three-dimensional frame of black yarn. It is this stillness and dreaminess that gives such visceral power to Shiota’s work that cannot be explained or fathomed except by being a part of it.
“Chiharu Shiota: Destination” is on view at Galerie Daniel Templon, 30 rue Beaubourg and Impasse Beaubourg, 75003 Paris until July 22, 2017. Free admission. danieltemplon.com.