Obvious entrapment

Chiharu Shiota, After the Dream, 2009

The idea of entrapment in a web is one it’s hard to explore without establishing more than a passing relationship with cliché. Though Alice Anderson’s anarchic loop of tangled dolls’ hair won me round – mainly by its refusal to stay contained within the gallery – sadly Chiharu Shiota’s After the Dream just doesn’t quite do it for me. Though I like the way Shiota uses thread to confuse my understanding of the space, I’m less taken with the entrapment of the white dresses within the web of thread. There is, arguably, the suggestion of spectral figures but really the reference of wedding dresses trapped within a web that might surprise even Miss Havisham seems that bit too obvious.

Memory of Books, 2011

I haven’t seen much of Shiota’s work and it may be that at some point I’ll encounter an installation that really works for me. In some ways Memory of Books which I saw in Venice last year came close; certainly the location helped, as did coming across the exhibition somewhat by accident albeit while in Venice for the Biennale, so on the lookout for art at all times. And, appropriately enough given the subject matter of memory, a sense of recognition having seen After the Dream meant I started from a position of optimism.

Other than the trademark use of thread, the works are connected by shared concerns around memory and the passage of time and both exude an air of sadness. There’s a lot here that I’d expect to really like – and I think I do enjoy Shiota’s work when I see it – but somehow that’s overridden by the passage of time and that nagging cliché alarm.

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