A profound sense of curiosity and a search for answers consumes Chiharu Shiota’s practice. The Osaka-born, Berlin-based artist is known for her massive installations that crisscross and intertwine string into mesh-like labyrinths. Simultaneously dense in construction and delicate and airy, the site-specific works rely on negative space and a recurring theme of “absence in existence,” Shiota tells Louisiana Channel in a new interview.
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Chronicling the artist’s evolution and surveying her works across decades, the short film visits her Berlin studio, where a suspended boat hangs from the ceiling and Shiota shares some childhood paintings. She describes the latter medium as limiting her expression, prompting her first interactions with string and the concept of “drawing in the air.” The film then follows Shiota to Cisternerne in Copenhagen, where she weaves a web of white string across the pillars filling the eerie space for her ongoing Multiple Realities exhibition, which is on view through November 30.
Shiota works with what she terms “philosophies of the moment,” creating sprawling installations designed to elicit visceral reactions from those in their presence. The colors are symbolic, with red conveying relationships between people, black the universe, and white the beginning and purity. “Strings break, get tangled or tied together—just like people cut relationships, get tied together or tangled. It’s very much the same,” she says.
Travel and being “on the move” are when she typically gathers ideas for works, which aren’t sketched before she realizes them fully in their intended space. When an exhibition closes, the strings are cut and discarded, further embodying the conceptual aspects of her practice that meditates on life and death. “What world will there be after your body has disappeared? When I die, and my thoughts and ideas are gone… I wonder what will become of me. I create my works searching for these answers.”
Shiota has pieces on view in cities around the world at the moment, including Paris, Essen, Germany, and Aomori, Japan, and you can see the full list on her site.