September 2009, Chiharu Shiota

September 2009, Chiharu Shiota
Chiharu Shiota, Unconscious Anxiety, 2009, Installation View, courtesy Shiseido Gallery

Chiharu Shiota Exhibits Her Work in Tokyo

The Berlin-based Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota recently exhibited works in Tokyo, at Kenji Taki Gallery and Shiseido Gallery. Her solo show at Kenji Taki Gallery in Shinjuku featured a white dress with red strings that hang from the ceiling and extend from the garment. In purely visual terms, the combination of the white dress and the red strings is marvelous, but there is an uncanny quality to the work. It looks as if the dress is bleeding, and as if that blood is flowing in the space. It’s mesmerizing and strongly provocative. Interpreting the white dress as a symbol of femininity as well as a wedding gown, with the vague promises and uncertain future this symbolizes, the piece alludes to a very personal sense of anxiety, fear and pain. Shiota’s artistry blends these darker emotions with a sense of innocence, naivety and fragility. The piece integrates different viewpoints and leaves us with imagination; it provides an opportunity for viewers to explore the multi-sided thoughts and emotions of the artist.

In a group show at Shiseido Gallery, Shiota exhibited Unconscious Anxiety. Here, she used her distinctively intricate details to create a space both distressing and beautiful. The formal expression is almost obsessive-compulsive. Weaving a complex web in the gallery, she employs black strings to manifest an unconscious anxiety that is quiet yet almost palpable. Deep, reflective and fascinating, the work references mental disorder. It creates a sense of loneliness, solitude and tension that blurs one’s memory and disturbs one’s mind. An antique sewing machine illuminated in the center of the piece is enclosed in the net of strings. Provoking nostalgia, it feels like drawing in a fading old memory and holding onto what was once dear. It is also a relic representing a connection between a daughter and a mother, weaving together memory and family history. The installation is beautiful and withdrawn yet extremely stirring. Her esthetic carries delicacy, complexity and memory and approaches a sense of oblivion. Chiharu Shiota juxtaposes and harmonizes different psychological elements. Her art leaves a lasting impression, almost like a scar, intertwining complex experiences, thoughts and emotions.


After graduating from the Kyoto Seika University in Japan, Shiota studied in the Canberra School of Art, Australian National University as an exchange student and continued her studies at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Braunschweig and the Universität der Künste, Berlin Germany. She has had a number of shows in Japan and overseas featuring her performances and installations. Her works were also exhibited in the Yokohama Triennials (2001) and the Gwangju Biennales (2006).

whitehot gallery images, click a thumbnail.

Meg Kaizu

Meg Kaizu is a writer in Tokyo.

view all articles from this author