Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Chiharu Shiota: Me Somewhere Else

Me Somewhere Else, 2018

I have long admired the stunning installation works of Chiharu Shiota, but have had to be content with doing so from a distance via the convenience of the internet, such as when she represented Japan at the Venice Biennale in 2015 (here), Paris's Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche department store in 2017 (here), and Yorkshire Sculpture Park last year (here), but had not sadly had the chance to enjoy their complexities first-hand. That was until the situation was remedied when she presented her first installation with Blain Southern this winter at their Hanover Square gallery. It was so wonderful to experience this site-specific installation and become entangled in the complex, engrossing, knot of webs Shiota weaves with thread. The colour red seems to figure most prominently in Shiota's aesthetic, and the saturated blood red intensity of this colour only serves to add to the drama of her installations. Like Yayoi Kusama's recent exhibition - The Moving Moment When I Went To The Universe, (here), Shiota here is concerned with aspects of consciousness, and our personal relationships, and sense of connectedness to others on this planet and to the greater cosmos. She also uses the huge net and its knotted connections as a metaphor for the nervous system, and the complex neuron network of connections in the brain.

"I feel that my body is connected to the universe, but is my consciousness as well? When my feet touch the earth, I feel connected to the world, to the universe that is spread like a net of human connections, but if I don't feel my body anymore where did I go? Where do I go? Where do I go when my body is gone? When my feet do not touch the ground anymore."

The main installation consists of a vast, hand-knotted web of red yarn, which on reflection looks as if it could have been spun by one of Louise Bourgeois's huge Maman spider sculptures. The tangled mass of net narrows to a funnel of threads, and beneath the funnelled yarns are a pair of sculpted feet (cast from the artists' own feet), grounding and earthing the piece. It is an immersive, gorgeous artwork which casts ethereal shadows. The other pieces in this exhibition by Shiota are no less intriguing, especially State of Being (Dress), which has a fairytale quality to it, possibly of an enchanted princess, who having befallen a malevolent witch's curse becomes trapped in a black web, waiting for her hero to come and free her by breaking the threads and therefore the spell. In this respect I choose to imagine Shiota at work weaving in her Berlin studio, cast as the Lady of Shalott from Tennyson's eponymous poem who also wove magical webs. Other pieces in the exhibition feature maps, and pages from books of sculpture similarly encased in thread which also tell their own beguiling tales. Shiota's works are also reminiscent of those of Christo and Jean-Claude which too are physically bound, wrapped and shrouded in an air of mystery. Shiota weaves a special kind of magic. Shiota has me spellbound.

In the Hand, 2018

In the Hand, 2018

State of Being (Dress), 2018

State of Being (Dress), 2018 (details)

Skin, 2018

Skin, 2018 (details)

State of Being (Anatomy), 2018

State of Being (Anatomy), 2018 (detail)

In the downstairs gallery Blain Southern presents the equally enchanting -

Jonas Burgert: schlagen und bleiben

An exhibition which focuses solely on a series of beautifully executed fanciful drawings from the artists oeuvre. Drawing is a vital discipline which, judging by exhibitions seen last year appears to be coming back into fashion. The slightly other-worldly characters that inhabit these works look as though they could have been inspired by or inhabit the fantasy fiction works by such authors as J. R. R. Tolkien, or J. K. Rowling.

 schlimmt, 2018

gleich nur, 2018

blieb, 2018

 furch, 2018

 schlagen und bleiben, 2018

mit mir, 2018

 bald, 2018

stauber, 2018

Chiharu Shiota: Me Somewhere Else

Jonas Burgert: schlagen und bleiben
until 19th January
Blain I Southern
4 Hanover Square