Japanese artist Motoi Yamamoto creates intricate temporary installations using salt — an essential material for both the human body and the ocean. He pours the tiny grains into images that look very different far away than they do up close — maze-like, lace-like, map-like, nature-like, and tempest-like patterns that are specially designed for the installation space, and then are swept up by gallery patrons returned to the sea at the end of the exhibitions.
The mainspring of my work is derived from the death of my sister from brain cancer… Since then, I have had the dilemma, in grief and surprise, of thinking about what I had and lost. I started making art works that reflected such feelings and continue it as if I were writing a diary. Many of my works take the form of labyrinths with complicated patterns, ruined and abandoned staircases or too narrow life-size tunnels, and all these works are made with salt. A common perception towards them is “nearly reachable, yet not quite” or “nearly conceivable, yet not quite”…
Drawing a labyrinth with salt is like following a trace of my memory. Memories seem to change and vanish as time goes by. However, what I sought for was the way in which I could touch a precious moment in my memories which cannot be attained through pictures or writings. What I look for at the end of the act of drawing could be a feeling of touching a precious memory.
For a deeper dive, this 12 minute documentary by John Reynolds & Lee Donaldson explores Yamamoto’s breathtaking work further.