Chiharu Shiota

Home and Heart

The intricate installations of Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota are a paean to both the fleeting nature of memory and the full-body pleasure of coming home.

By Peter Hill

Chiharu Shiota looks very tired. We are sitting at the front of the Anna Schwartz Gallery in Melbourne’s Flinders Lane. Chiharu, along with eight assistants, has just completed a unique artwork, Absent Bodies, one of the most complex and moving installations I have ever seen. But there’s more. Additionally, she has made a second work, The Home Within, which is not just large and complex, but also portable. It opened in Federation Square on October 6, and will tour to various sites around the city over the coming weeks, ending at Melbourne Town Hall.

Last year she represented Japan at the Venice Biennale. The Key in the Hand was an astonishing work that trapped thousands of keys and a life-sized boat within her signature spider web network of red threads and oblique grids. Other large-scale installations have included: in Poland, hundreds of pairs of shoes representing DNA, similarly entangled; window frames at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan, forming a cylindrical tower; and a room of people sleeping in beds, as glimpsed though a black “spider web” of crisscrossing lines. Often in these works, as in the Anna Schwartz exhibition, one or two chairs represent either a sense of loss or a homecoming to look forward to.

“Have you been to Australia before?” I ask, wondering if her projects here represent a kind of homecoming in and of themselves.

“Yes, when I studied painting in Osaka in the 1990s I completed a residency at Canberra... Subscribe to read this article in full

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