Motoi Yamamoto Salt Art: Connecting with Memories

An Interview with the Installation Artist

Salt art by Motoi Yamamoto

Motoi Yamamoto was busy working at the local dockyard. It was 1988, the now renowned installation artist from Japan was only 22 years’ old then. The tragic loss of his sister Yuko at her prime, who was then suffering from brain cancer, made Motoi not only realise the fragility of life but also wonder at its instability.

He started creating art installations with salt, an element which is a symbol of purification in Japan and also a common environmental element from his days at the dockyard. Through returning the salt to the sea at the end of every show Motoi continues to pay respect to his departed sister till date.

Sakura Suzu, Artwork with salt by Motoi Yamamoto
Sakura Suzu

Art has been your passion since an early age and later on it also became your solace. How would you define the significance of art in your life?

私の両親は小さな自転車屋を営んでいました。私は子供の頃からもの作りを見ながら育ち、高校を卒業するときは、将来家業を継ぐつもりでした。しかし、造船所で仕事をする間に、より創造的な仕事に興味を持つようになり、芸術大学に進学する決心をしました。私は世の中のどこにもない景色を自分の手でつくりたいと思ったのです。 その後、私の最大の理解者でもあった妹の発病や闘病、そして彼女の死を迎えたことによって、私の一生のテーマは決まりました。私は亡くなった彼女のことを覚えておくために、儀式のように作品を作り続けています。

To this date your art has been celebrated worldwide for its being unique and conveying a special message. Did you ever experiment with any other medium to create art? How has the art evolved in your hands with time?

芸術大学入学の半年後に妹が発病しました。それを境にして、私は生や死とテーマに制作しはじめました。 当初は油絵、アクリル画、コラージュなどの平面作品。妹の死後はインスタレーションという手法に移行し、木、和紙、石、コンクリート、ガラス、砂、金属などを使って制作していました。中でも鉄などの金属は、私にとって馴染みのある素材です。なぜなら私は造船所で働いていた経験があるからです。


The extremely delicate designs take long hours of concentrated effort. How do you train your mind to achieve that flawless concentration?



Salt Art by Motoi Yamamoto

What do you feel about the symbolical meaning of your art that connects people around the world emotionally?

私は、私の心と今は亡き妹の思い出を「つなぐ」ための作品を制作しています。 したがって、私は私の作品が人と人の心をつないだり、大切な思い出を思い出すきっかけになって欲しいと思います。

The medium of art is salt and it is also true that nothing in this world survives “time”. However, have you felt that it would have been better if your art could have had a bit more permanence? That hours of hard work is not being destroyed in few minutes?




Any person for whom you hold a special appreciation, from artworld or otherwise?


Portrait of Motoi Yamamoto

Motoi Yamamoto enjoys…

A lover of historical places, ruins of yesteryear and nature, especially mountains a two time grants winner (The Pollock-Krasner Foundation Inc, New York, 2003 & Voyager + AIT scholarship program, Tokyo, 2010) Motoi Yamamoto loved his recent visit to Salt Flats, Utah, US.

Find more of his work at his website.

Image Courtesy: Motoi Yamamoto