Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) exhibition celebrating the amazing achievements of Chiharu Shiota.
Stunning works that have captured the world, Shiota utilises mainly red string and explores social issues and often integrates everyday items within her works. Whether it’s her Mega complex large scale works or delicate intricate small pieces, she utilises colour, space, and light to create audience interaction and personal dialogue with her works.
I have been following Chiharu’s works for many years and felt privileged to be able to finally see them in person and bath in the emotions that they evoke. Shiota and her works have always greatly moved and inspired me as a person and as an artist.
After the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires which came within metres of my home and destroyed many more in my area, I was struggling to come to terms with feelings of devastation and loss. Not only the loss of lives, homes, fences, and farm structures, but also the enormous loss of native bushlands and native animals.
It was so quite after the fires; no animals, no birds, stark black landscape, soot covered everything, inside and out, the smell of wet embers still triggers strong emotions. I had a ball of red string which I use in my works, and was sitting there pulling it through my fingers, it felt healing.
The red string and the black landscape reminded me of Chiharu’s work. It was then I decided to make a work reflecting these feelings of devastation.
Between Two Fires is that work, consisting of over 3,600 metres of red string, representative of the heat and flames. Each piece of string is individually strung with over 1,300 pieces of charcoal and hangs suspended from the ceiling forming a dense cloud of red and black.
Alongside, hanging in black string are the remains of an alloy bull bar from a neighbour’s burnt-out ute, still retaining the shine but caste into the shape of the ground where it flowed after melting with the intense heat.
The making of this piece and the connection and inspiration to Chiharu Shiota’s works are what kept me going. Many weeks of working creatively through the feelings of frustration, grief and devastation turned into an acceptance and understanding of the healing process of both myself, and the natural world.
Thank you, Chiharu Shiota.