Red yarn reverie — Chiharu Shiota at Jameel Art Centre

An interlacing web of red threads crisscrossing across a room, tied around an old wooden boat — aptly titled ‘Departure’– is one of the most bewitching art exhibits at the Jameel Art Centre in Dubai. In her signature style Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota weaves a vision in red igniting myriads of emotions in her viewers. Silent and awe-struck, each one of one of us in the room felt at once connected and transported into the stunning mess of tangled threads staring at us.
Located on the second floor in one of the art rooms, most visitors are caught unaware by the aesthetic brilliance surrounding this room full of thread. In the centre are two pieces of an old broken dhow, emanating out of its sides and engulfing the whole room are strings of bright red yarn.
The stunning installation was created using around 12,000 balls of yarn by Shiota. She was aided by a team of 10 volunteers and it took her two weeks to complete. The project will be part of the Jameel Art centre till May 2019, said Dawn Ross, manager, collections, during an art room talk I attended.
Born in Osaka, Japan in 1972, Shiota now lives and works in Berlin, Germany. Today she is well-known world over for her large-scale installations created using threads and ordinary objects such as shoes, keys, boats, windows, dresses and suitcases. She says ordinary everyday objects help her to connect to people’s memories and unlike a canvas there are no limitations of space with threads.
One of her iconic projects is Dialogue from DNA (2004) designed in Poland and then recreated in Germany and Japan. As part of the project she invited people to donate shoes with memories attached to them. People donated thousands of old shoes for the exhibit — some of those who had died, others from their first dates, weddings and family trips. With four miles of red yarn tied to 400 shoes Shiota connected them all from a single point. For yet another of her famous projects — Key in the Hand (2015) at the Venice Art Biennale she used 50,000 personal keys tied around red threads, hanging in a room over two ancient boats.
In Departure, Shiota, has used two old boats sourced locally in Dubai. She says, the boat is a symbol of memories and emotions attached to people in the emirate. Colour Red is a metaphor for relationships. The thread creates a sea of human connections and through Departure she wanted to depict how we are all connected in one way or the other.

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