Chiharu Shiota ‘The Soul Trembles’

‘The Soul Trembles’ by Chiharu Shiota is the largest solo exhibition of the artist’s work to date, charting 25 years of her magnificent and poetic works of art. Shiota is known the world over for her installations, which are at once a towering and enveloping presence, of a fine and delicate construction. Countless threads (usually either exclusively red, white or black) are criss-crossed, looped and lashed out in space forming complex webs cascading from ceiling to floor or stretching wall to wall.

Chiharu Shiota / Uncertain Journey2016/2019 / Installation view in ‘Chiharu Shiota: The Soul Trembles’, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2022 / Metal frame, red wool / Dimensions variable / © Chiharu Shiota / Photograph: Natasha Harth, QAGOMA

Shiota rose to international recognition when her work was presented at the Japanese pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale and she’s since exhibited internationally and here in Australia.

It’s not only the large scale installations we are treated to as with the collaboration and curation of Mami Kataoka, Director of Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, we understand these larger pieces in the context of Shiota’s broader practice which includes works on paper, sculpture and performance and theatre works.

Initially a student of painting in Japan it was on an exchange to the Canberra School of Art, Australian National University that Shiota’s interests in painting, performance and the body became enmeshed. Following this distillation of direction, she trained with renowned performance artist Marina Abramović in Germany. In the orbit of an artist known for testing intellectual and physical boundaries Shiota finessed her practice as one which would be deeply connected to memory and the power of objects, as well as significance of negative space, the power of emptiness, displacement, or absence.

The overwhelming physical presence, and detail, of these works is definitely special to experience in person, and the gallery is offering timed tickets which implies the flow of visitors will be at a pace that encourages a contemplative time.

The meaning of these womb, or web-like forms is of course open to the viewer’s interpretation, but the gallery infers while we may feel cocooned there is a sense of disquiet, it could be a place to therefore consider memories, dreams, anxiety, and silence. To convey this poetic meditation the artist often includes everyday objects within her woven spaces, such as keys, chairs, wooden boats, door or window frames and old suitcases; pieces that suggest ‘a presence’ as well as point to a liminal space, a passing through.

Chiharu Shiota / Where Are We Going? 2017/2019 / Installation view in ‘Chiharu Shiota: The Soul Trembles’, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2022 / White wool, wire, rope / Dimensions variable / © Chiharu Shiota / Photograph: Chloë Callistemon, QAGOMA

In a recent conversation with the Louisiana Channel the artist said “In the moment people enter my works, I want them to understand what it is to live and what it is to die.” It’s with this in mind that we consider the evocative exhibition – ‘The Soul Trembles’.

The exhibition is on view now at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) in Brisbane until 3 October 2022.