Chiharu Shiota, Uncertain Journey, 2016, Installation view, Courtesy the artist and BlainSouthern, Photo Christian Glaeser


Chiharu Shiota: Uncertain Journey

Blain|Southern, Berlin, until 12 November 2016.

October 2016

If the title of Chiharu Shiota's exhibition at Blain|Southern in Berlin is a metaphor for life, then her vision is powerful and passionate. For her first exhibition at the gallery, the Japanese-born, Berlin-based artist has created an elaborate, site-specific installation. It engulfs the visitor in a red haze formed from floor-to-ceiling networks of yarns, which are woven as intricately as spiderwebs. The impression is as if Shiota has been drawing in the air, flying through the space like Mary Poppins, with pencils in her hand, to create visual planes that carry depth and energy.

“When I was a student, I was in the painting department and I wanted to make a drawing but in three dimensions, not two,” she told in an interview last year. “So I started making lines in the air, in the space, when I was about 20 and started using string in this way.”

In 'Uncertain Journey', the threads sweep down to encompass six iron fishing boats. It evokes the image of fishing boats out at sea, being swept up by the current and dragged out by the tide – an allergory for the unpredictability of life. In this sense, Shiota's threads pictorially stretch from the sea to the sky. The dense canopy of threads interconnects the boats, creating a spatial meandering.

The exhibition follows on from Shiota's exhibition, 'The Key in the Hand', in the Japanese Pavilion at last year's Venice Biennale, where she represented Japan. A mesh of red threads formed an overhanging above a twisting pathway which encircled two Venetian fishing boats. Around 50,000 rusty keys jangled from the threads, while 130,000 more keys were spilt on the floor. The installation was a message of hope for Japan following the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

In both instances, the colour red represents the pulsating blood of humanity. In 'Uncertain Journey', the boats could be seen to represent the different phases of life or challenges to overcome whilst searching for a sense of belonging.

Chiharu Shiota, Uncertain Journey, 2016, Installation view, Courtesy the artist and BlainSouthern, Photo Christian Glaeser
Chiharu Shiota, Uncertain Journey, 2016, Installation view, Courtesy the artist and BlainSouthern, Photo Christian Glaeser
Chiharu Shiota, Uncertain Journey, exhibition view, Photo Anna Sansom
Chiharu Shiota, Uncertain Journey, exhibition view, Photo Anna Sansom