Chiharu Shiota (b. 1972) is a rising star in the contemporary art world, and her installation Stairway, 2012/2016 in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art’s current exhibition “Piranesi/Shiota: Prisons of the Imagination” is a monumental achievement, according to art critics and museum goers.Born in Osaka, Japan, Shiota has been living and working in Berlin since 1996. She began her artistic studies at Seika University in Kyoto and later moved to Germany to continue her studies. There, she studied under the renowned performance artist Marina Abramovic and has embraced various aspects of performance, sometimes literal and other times symbolic, into her work.Shiota is poised, calm and speaks softly. She is surprisingly humble, considering her numerous awards and accolades. Among the most recent, she represented Japan at the 56th Venice Bienniale. Her works have been exhibited in numerous solo and group shows internationally and have been acquired by top private collectors and public institutions.Shiota’s installation at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art is an intricate network of black thread, precisely constructed to form a tunnel-like path for visitors to traverse. Inside the web is a set of stairs, which appear to float within the space. The crosshatched pattern made by the thread creates a three-dimensional architectural structure, strongly resembling the adjacent series of etchings by the 18th-century master printmaker Giovanni Battista Piranesi. The exhibition explores the theme of culture-dependent prisons that exist in both artists’ imaginations and imprison both dreams and nightmares.
How would you categorize your art? My main work is installation. I fill empty spaces with thread, which symbolizes human relationships. It is humanistic art, where I convey feelings from the human condition.You have said that you never tire of being an artist because you have so many different ideas to pursue. Where do you find inspiration? Usually when I am traveling I have the time to think because I have to stay still for some or many hours. I don’t get inspiration from a particular thing; it’s life in general where I get ideas for my creations. From my everyday tasks.How did you come to exhibit this installation at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art? I like the Tel Aviv Museum very much. The architecture and design are inspiring. Some years ago they asked me to participate in a group show, and we stayed in contact. At first I wanted to use mirrors and thread, but as time went by a few changes happened, and it then developed into my installation work as it was back then with the Stairway. The setup team and I began weaving from the ceiling down for 10 days.The exhibition juxtaposes your contemporary work with “Imaginary Prisons,” the series of etchings by Giovanni Battista Piranesi. Did you find that intimidating? Since it was a group show, I had to combine the original piece from Piranesi’s series of prints with my own project. He did a two-dimensional drawing, and I use three dimensions in my work, but it was a good combination. I began my artistic career as a painter, so I could very much appreciate his art. It amazes me how he could create such a piece in 1760, around 200 years ago. I can see the connection between us, as he draws with many lines, just like I try to do with the black threads in my installations.
In the past, you also exhibited at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art. Why do you think Israelis and Israeli art institutions have reacted so positively to your art? Maybe it’s because the theme of my work is “existence in the absence,” which touches a very fundamental feeling of the human race. It connects with history.Have you enjoyed your time in Israel?I feel like Israel has a special energy. Every time I come here, my mind opens.Is there anything people should know before seeing your installation? They should come with an open mind. My art impacts visually from the moment you enter the room. It’s more about the feeling it transmits as you walk in the space. The visitors don’t need to come with any background knowledge.Chiharu Shiota’s installation is on show at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art through May 6. For more information: www.tamuseum.org.il