Chiharu Shiota - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in association with Yongle Hong Kong Thursday, December 1, 2022 | Phillips

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  • “Threads allow me to explore space, piling up layer after layer creates a surface like the night sky which gradually expands into the universe.”
    — Chiharu Shiota


    Weaving enthralling, otherworldly dimensions out of thread, Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota creates immersive installations and sculptures where the past and present collides, and the intangible is given form. Masterfully encapsulating abstract notions of personal memories and human existence, Shiota’s hauntingly beautiful works are fraught with the emotional power of absence.


    Shiota predominantly uses red, black, or white colour schemes in her work; these colours each represent the interconnectedness between human relationships, the universe and unknown cosmos, and a timeless sense of purity and new beginnings respectively. With these monochromatic vacuums of space, Shiota focuses the viewer's attention on the central object intertwined within, enabling them to tune into their emotional responses to the work without any distractions. Her large scale, site-specific installations encourage interaction, often creating passages for viewers to walk through and around in order to take in the full scope of the work, demanding both a physical and emotional engagement from the viewer.



    The Presence of Absence


    Grounded by everyday objects that belong to unknown strangers, Shiota’s woven sculptures suspend each item in time, reifying transient memories, making them tangible. These found objects – such as the kimono in the present work – hold symbolic personal connotations, or cultural significance. Each object captured within these intricate webs represent poignant personal narratives for the artist: ‘Many years ago, I bought some old suitcases at a flea market in Berlin. When I opened them at home, I could feel the existence of the previous owner. Even though I never met them, I could feel their presence. I believe the objects that surround us accumulate our existence. When I leave my bed in the morning, you can see traces of my body in the sheets.’ i 

    “No one is there now but someone was there previously. This is the theme of my work. Someone is here and nobody is here. And traces of the person who previously owned and used these objects are present.”
    — Chiharu Shiota


    In State of Being (Boy’s Kimono), the presence of its previous owner is emphasised through the absence of a body. In her attempts in making the body’s absence tangible, Shiota’s works transcend the gap between the material and the abstract. Like labyrinths, countless lines of thread bind, circle and trace around these objects, alluding to a complex web of human connections, emotions and memories, which in turn carves out a deeply personal and poetic space that previously existed only in abstraction. 



    Vessels of Memory


    Though mundane in its nature, clothes are extraordinary vessels of memory. Garments outlive their owners – their presence allude to an irrevocable absence. Bodies come and go, but the clothing that carried those bodies survive. Suspended, they take on a spectral guise.


    “Clothing is... an exercise of memory... It makes me explore the past... How did I feel when I wore that...”
    — Louise Bourgeois


    Shiota’s contemporaries such as Louise Bourgeois and Yayoi Kusama have all utilised fabric and clothing as conduits in communicating complex personal emotions of loss and memory. Often adapting garments that belonged to her mother who passes when she was only 22, Louise Bourgeois employed a variety of textiles that were cut up and contorted with exposed seams, others kept as they were. Items from her youth, such as the pink silk coats as seen in Pink Days and Blue Days, became mementos of her younger self, hanging freely or sewn closed to suggest the presence of human form. Similarly, Yayoi Kusama has also created garments which possess a unique tactile presence that gives them a decidedly sculptural dimension. However, in contrast to both Shiota and Bourgeois, Kusama’s garments stems from her infinite hallucinations and a desire to cover the universe – including bodies – with her signature motifs of polka dots, webs, and biomorphic patterns. These costumes were also used for her ‘happenings’, as the participants in her performances were dressed in clothing designed by the artist.



    Detail of the present lot


    Both Shiota and Bourgeois treats the clothing in their works with sentimentality. In State of Being (Boy’s Kimono), Shiota’s time consuming, labour intensive process possess a meditative quality. The act of weaving around a central object suggests a protective tenderness towards it, as each item is surrounded by layers of coloured thread within a metal frame. These vitrines of quiet contemplation envelopes the object and its histories within a deliberate stillness, frozen in time, memorialising and preserving the stories associated within.



    Weaving Connections 


    “All my work is inspired by my life or by a personal emotion. I try to expand this emotion into something universal to connect with others. I have tried to express emotions in my art that I would never be able to explain.”
    — Chiharu Shiota


    Central to the artist’s practice, strings were an escape from the canvas for Shiota. Feeling more connected to the string as a material than paint, Shiota started doing performance and installation art with thread: ‘When you weave string, it’s a communication with the space. It’s like painting a picture in the air.’ ii First incorporating threads as a medium in 1999, Shiota started her exploration with the medium with her large-scale installation Dreaming Time, where she connected 450 shoes with red strings, pulling the ends up towards a centre point suspended under an outline of a house made from black thread.   



    Installation of Dreaming Time (1999), at Asian Fine Arts Berlin / Prüss & Ochs Gallery, Berlin, Germany
    Artwork: © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn



    Despite originating from the personal, Shiota’s sculptures and installations explore emotions that are universally resonated with. Representing Japan in the 2015 Venice Biennale, Shiota stretched a myriad of red lines around worn-out gondolas, wrapping and suspending rusty keys in the space above. Speaking to contemporary experiences of migration and diaspora, each vessel contains their distinct histories and unique traces of human life. The presence of each traveller can be felt, despite their physical absence. Shiota believes that ‘by creating webs, I tend to wrap individual memories and shine a light on human relationships.’iii Similar to The Key in the Hand (2015), the State of Being series can be seen as a commentary and exploration into human existence and the interconnectedness of life and death.



    Installation view of The Key in the Hand (2015)
    at the Japanese Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale, 2015
    Artwork: © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn


    Collector’s Digest


    Born in 1972 in Osaka, Shiota studied painting at Kyoto Seika University before continuing her artistic education at the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg, the Berlin University of the Arts, and the Braunschweig University of Art, where she was a student of performance artist Marina Abramovic. Currently based in Berlin, Chiharu Shiota won international acclaim after her representation of Japan at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015.


    Her largest travelling retrospective to date, The Soul Trembles, just closed in October at the Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art (QAGoMA), Brisbane. It was touring at the Long Museum in Shanghai in 2021, and at the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; the Busan Museum of Art; the Gallery of Modern Art in Australia; and the Museum MACAN, Indonesia previously. The artist is represented by Gallery Templon, König Gallery, and Mimmo Scognamiglio Artecontemporanea.


    This spring, Musée Guimet presented Chiharu Shiota's work in Carte blanche to Chiharu Shiota , which ran from 16 March - 6 June 2022. Chiharu Shiota: Multiple Realities, is still ongoing at the Cisternerne Museum in Copenhagen until 30 November 2022.



     Chiharu Shiota interviewed in March 2022 for her exhibition Multiple Realities at Cisternerne in Copenhagen, Denmark



    Chiharu Shiota, as quoted in TF Chan, ‘At home with artist Chiharu Shiota’, Wallpaper, 1 June 2020, online

    ii  Chiharu Shiota, as quoted in ‘Artist Chiharu Shiota Uses String to Draw in Space’, Louisiana Channel (Louisiana Museum of Modern Art), Youtube, 22 April 2022, online

    iii  Chiharu Shiota, as quoted in ‘Interview:Chiharu Sota’ Dreamideamachine ART VIEW, 11 April 2017, online

    • Provenance

      Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Paris, Galerie Daniel Templon, Small Room, 7 June - 23 July, 2014


State of Being (Boy’s Kimono)

signed with the artist's initials 'CS' reverse lower right
metal, black thread and Kimono
151 x 100 x 80 cm. (59 1/2 x 39 3/8 x 31 1/2 in.)
Executed in 2013.

Full Cataloguing

HK$1,500,000 - 2,500,000 

Sold for HK$1,638,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in association with Yongle

Hong Kong Auction 1 December 2022