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Chiharu Shiota - exposition at the Blain|Southern

Chiharu Shiota (b.1972, Osaka) is a Japanese installation artist known for her use of yarn and used possessions, which create networks of human experience.

The starting points for the majority of Shiota’s installations are collections of used possessions; belongings, haunted with memories, that act as expressions of human acts. Complex networks of yarn are often interlaced around and between objects, linking their inherent narratives and creating a new visual plane, as if painting in mid-air.

For her latest exhibition, ‘Me Somewhere Else’, artist Chiharu Shiota has created the human, non-digitised version of that early utopian world wide web, a complex and beautiful series of artworks based on our connections to each other and to all the pre-internet parts of this planet: the land, the air and the strange matter making up our bodies.

Trained by Marina Abramovic, Shiota is best known for her work with thread. This show is no different, made up of a large-scale installation using a cast of the artist’s feet as the base for a massive, multi-layered maze of red rope. Shown alongside this are smaller watercolours, sculptures and wall-based works on canvas. 

She creates a vast net of yarn, which is suspended from the gallery ceiling and connected to the floor by a cast of the artist's feet. The blood red of the yarn is laden with symbolism, from the neural pathways in the human brain to the connections that bind us together.

The simplified, graphic novel-ish paintings convey the feeling of being a tiny, person-shaped dot in an ever-expanding universe. Little figures are dwarfed by black holes and tornadoes while, in another, a spindly tree grasps the soil with its roots to stop itself blowing away.

But the main attraction here is the installation. The scarlet storm cloud bellows up to the ceiling, and drips down again in different length threads.

There’s a ‘femaleness’ to Shiota’s work, both in its use of weaving (a traditionally feminine practice) and because this installation resembles a giant bloody womb, with the endless knots standing in for menstrual clots.

Yet despite that gooey interpretation, you’re not put off the work; quite the opposite. The other way that ‘Me Somewhere Else’ joins the dots between people is by dragging them in off the street. Passers-by stop outside Blain Southern, gaze entranced through the window and, after a pause, come inside for a closer look.

‘I feel that my body is connected to the universe but is my consciousness as well? When my feet touch the earth, I feel connected to the world, to the universe that is spread like a net of human connections, but if I don’t feel my body anymore where do I go? Where do I go when my body is gone? When my feet do not touch the ground anymore.’

– with Me Somewhere Else Shiota seeks to examine the idea that human consciousness could exist independently of the body, somewhere beyond – somewhere else. 

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