Chiharu Shiota, visual artist
Memory and nostalgia, light and colour, beauty and loss: the Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota weaves all these elements together in her installations, imbuing the place where her works are set up and the objects suspended there with a dark, dream-like power.
A disciple of Ana Mendieta and a whole generation of feminist artists of the early 1970s, she also uses her body as a medium, doing performances which deal obsessively with our links to the earth and the past.
She is known for her installations, which are primarily made of wool spun into webs that conjure up a mixture of dream-like attraction and hypnotic fascination. The presence or absence of her own body is an essential ingredient and enables her to explain the way she goes about defining an artist's work: the artistic object and the public, interior and exterior.
According to her philosophy of art, a true artwork can only be created when the expectation aroused by already familiar forms of artistic expression is dropped and replaced by a perception of things which can achieve its aims without attributions of meaning.
Do you choose the art form, Chiharu, or does the form choose you?
Connections are a part of our existence, we can't exist if we don't feel we're connected to someone or something. That's why I stopped drawing and painting. I didn't feel comfortable with that kind of art. Painting as an art form has an amazing history, but I had the feeling it wasn't my own material. It didn't belong to my personality. I wanted to find the meaning of art and I knew that if I went on painting, I would only create art for art's sake.
Have any dreams or obsessions inspired your art?
There's a Taoist parable, The Butterfly Dream, which questions reality. It's provided me with inspiration and it runs through some of my works, such as During sleep. The story's about a man who dreams he's a butterfly but when he wakes up he isn't sure if he's a man who dreamt he was a butterfly or a butterfly who's dreaming he's a man. He's lost his sense of what real life it. I think our sense of reality and existence is founded largely on sleeping and dreaming.
Is the use of threads in your artistic installations also inspired by a dream?
Threads enable me to explore space and add layer after layer in order to create a surface like the night sky which gradually extends out into the universe. I started using white thread, for instance, because I wanted to experiment with something new. I wanted to create something unknown. That was for a project at the beginning of 2017. At the time I'd never worked with white thread before, so I found it strange, but now it's part of my art.
Georg Baselitz says that all good art comes from misery, never from anything positive.
I make sure my art isn't a kind of therapy to combat inner anxiety, because I personally need to fear in order to create art. I create out of emotion. We all have a world inside us and I think our aim is to connect our inner world to the outer world. That's what I try to do so that my workhas meaning. I create in order to understand my emotions and myself and in order to connect with others.
Out of all your works, do you have one favourite one?
No, I have no favourite work. That's why I can't stop creating. I'm never fully satisfied.
Do you have any personal motto you find helpful in life?
I have no special motto. I like to follow my feelings. I search obsessively for the missing piece, but I never know exactly which one is missing. I have no clear definition of my emptiness.
Interview by Ana Bogdan for The Talks, published 3 April 2019.
From January 12 to February 24, 2021