Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota weaves a tangled web in Melbourne


There’s an Australian thread running throughout the tangled woollen webs woven by Japanese-born, Berlin-based artist Chiharu Shiota. You can figuratively trace it with your finger, starting with her experience as an exchange student at the Australia National University of Canberra School of Art in 1994.

Then she set fire to a grand piano.

Over the course of 10 days in 2011, she built a convoluted network of yarn around the charred instrument at Hobart’s Detached. The following year, she stalked the corridors of the TarraWarra Museum of Art, her black yarn cocooning a double bass in the TWMA Vista Walk for State of Being.

Chiharu Shiota, Conscious Sleep, 2016, Installation view 20th Biennale of Sydney, Cockatoo Island. Photo by Paul Green. Courtesy of the artist, 20th Biennale of Sydney and Anna Schwartz Gallery.

More recently, she dived directly into Australian history for the 20th Biennale of Sydney, creating a site-specific installation in a 19th-century sandstone building on Cockatoo Island that referenced the property’s history as a prisoners’ barracks.

Shiota is now stringing along to Australia yet again for a major solo exhibition at Anna Schwartz Gallery, which has been representing her since her appearance at the 56th Venice Biennale Japan Pavilion last year. Twine in tow, she will take over the Melbourne gallery space, casting her complicated webs to expand on the key themes of her practice: “the question of existence, the awakening of consciousness to silence, to the traces [of] objects and subjects that are no longer present”.

“My creations with thread are reflections of my own feelings,” Shiota said in a statement. “A thread can be a cut, a knot or a loop, or can be loose or sometimes tangled. A thread to me is an analogy for feelings or human relationships.”

Chiharu Shiota
Anna Schwartz Gallery
4 October – 5 November

Preview Words by Toby Fehily