Japanese artist Motoi Yamamoto has turned a tragic past into incredibly intricate installations made entirely of salt.
While attending his third-year at the Kanazawa College of Art, his younger sister died after being diagnosed with brain cancer. Overcome with grief, Yamamoto abandoned his traditional painting and began channeling all of his creative energy into these amazing floor installations in 2001 to ease his pain and honor her memory.
Reminiscent of Tibetan salt mandalas, his beautiful work stretches across gallery floors. Sometimes his complex forms have the tendency to evoke visual labyrinths. Other times, they can resemble patterns of hurricanes and ocean currents.
So, why the salt?
In ancient Japan, salt was considered so important because of how time-consuming the process was to make it. Today, it is still integrated into their traditions, customs and rituals and is often used as an offering to the gods. Salt is also considered a symbol of purification.
When people die in Japan, salt is handed out to people at the end of a funeral so that they can sprinkle it on themselves to keep evil at bay.
By filling up a bottle, one that is usually used for machine oil, with white salt, Yamamoto sprinkles it upon the floor to create these elaborate works of art. Sometimes, he works on his projects for more than 14 hours a day and most of them take more than two weeks to complete.
This is what Yamamoto told the Japan Times: “I draw with a wish that, through each line, I am led to a memory of my sister. That is always at the bottom of my work. Each cell-like part, to me, is a memory of her that I call up, like a tiff I had with her over a pudding cake she took from the fridge. My wish is to put such tiny episodes together.”
In his hands, the salt is a reminder of how temporary life can be, while also commemorating the passage of time.