Paper experimentation inspired by Chiharu Shiota

Year 1 students from West Lakes Shore School created paper sculptures inspired by Absence Embodied by Chiharu Shiota.

Absence Embodied is a site-specific installation in Gallery 14 in the Melrose Wing at the Art Gallery of South Australia. In addition to the dense mass of red wool which forms a three-dimensional labyrinth, the installation also includes a cluster of bronze and plaster casts of the artist’s and family members’ hands and feet.

Shiota is well renowned for her large-scale installations that have been made using string, sometimes connected to everyday objects such as keys, windows, dresses and boats. These installations have been exhibited around the world including Melbourne, Tokyo, Venice, Madrid and now Adelaide. Shiota’s work explores themes of motherhood, lifecycles and geographical displacement. These are deeply connected to her personal experience as a woman, an artist and an immigrant.

Like Shiota, the students drew on their own personal experiences and memories in creating their sculptures. Students wrote a feeling or memory specific for each strip of paper and applied various twisting, folding and bending techniques before gluing it to the surface.

Art teacher Lisa Zappia then suspended all the students' work from the classroom ceiling, presenting their work as one large collaborative installation.

Suggestions for using Chiharu Shiota's Absence Embodied as a starting point in your classroom

What is the most exciting way you could destroy this work of art?


Investigate the meaning of colours. How have these meanings changed over time and what do they mean in different cultures? Did you discover any colours that have multiple representations? For example, the colour red is often associated with love AND anger. What other meanings can you find for the colour red? Research other artists throughout time who have predominately used red, or another singular colour, in their works.


Treasure hunt! Find 5 works of art which have an emphasis on line.


Experiment - think about a repeated action you do daily, for example, washing your hair, brushing your teeth, eating or cleaning. Imitate this action with a drawing tool on paper.


Challenge yourself to create a work of art using a single material of one colour. Experiment with everyday materials such as paper, toothpicks, wool or fabric. Test its limits – tear, cut, bend, stretch, twist or overlap your chosen material.

Contemporary Art

Select a three‑dimensional work of art and consider how the artist would have made it. Write a method providing clear instructions for how this piece could be made again.


Create a collaborative installation using works of art made by each student in the class that represent something about who they are, their values, their strengths or cultural background. Select a place within the school or classroom where this installation can remain for the term.