Chiharu Shiota
Absence Embodied

Gallery 14

About this work of art

Audio description of the work of art

Absence Embodied is a site-specific wool, bronze, plaster and steel installation created by Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota in 2018.

‘Chiharu Shiota's labyrinthine installations weave a complex web from waking life and fading memories.’ - The Guardian

Filling Gallery 14 at the Art Gallery of South Australia, right across the ceiling, attached to all 4 walls and funnelling down to meet the floor in the centre of the room, Absence Embodied is gigantic, red and full of angles. A juxtaposition of organic and in-organic that is enmeshed and geometric. Interwoven, tautly suspended lines of red wool criss-cross the 12m x 17m room. At the centre of the room is a cluster of woollen tendrils and plaster hands and legs.

The gallery has two entrances, high, arched openings on opposite walls. The floor is highly polished golden-brown, wooden parquetry. Thin lines of the red, woollen web stretch down low onto the walls, in the corners of the room and either side of the doorways.

Absence Embodied is the growth of intersections, a layered web. Single red threads stretch from one point to another, overlapping, made from more than 180km of wool. The lines form geometric patterns and one interconnected canopy. A dynamic, see-through organic commentary of arches and a thick mass overhead through which light passes. The sculpture flows to the floor at centre and Absence Embodied is so vast it reclaims the room, a white- walled gallery space transformed by overlapping wool and a circle of appendages positioned within threads, reaching to the ground in the middle of the room. Criss-crossing shadows fall onto the walls.

Above head-height are hundreds of woollen lines, not tangled - detailed and precise. Below the canopy, around the room, a series of arches (something like a tree-lined canopy to walk underneath). At the centre, pockets of space, gaping nooks – inside a stem, reaching down to the floor. Tendrils from the stem stretch to meet a series of limbs loosely placed in an oval pattern.

Seventeen individual sculpted human parts, hands and feet - forearm to fingertips; shin to toe, are made from plaster and bronze. Nine bronze casts are of the artist’s own limbs, seven plaster casts are her daughter’s hands and wrists. With fingers extended and palms facing upwards, the hands lie on the floor, pointing outwards. The seventeenth sculpture is of three entwined hands, a cast bronze re-creation of the act of Shiota and her husband clasping their daughter’s small hand. The sculptures are either brown or cream and through them, red woollen thread is passing, attached neatly to the parquetry floor. Body parts are attached, involved, linked to the mass of red woollen lines.

One leg lies unattached to the threads and protected inside a loose circle of taut red lines and other limbs. One bronze foreleg stands on its clean-cut stump, with the sole of its foot facing upwards.

Above us are skylights in the gallery ceiling. Soft, round ceiling lights shine through the mass of threads. Light from above creates geometric shadows across the walls and floor. The light has a reddish tinge as it filters through the dense web of wool.