Motoi Yamamoto

Contemporary artist Motoi Yamamoto is currently exhibiting at the Bellevue Arts Museum in Washington (until May 27, 2012) in a show called Making Mends, which focuses “not on brokenness, but on the sense of hope and perseverance, they come to terms with traumatic experiences through the act of creation. What is produced in response is honest, compelling, sometimes humorous, and a departure point to investigate what it is that drives the human spirit and our own path to healing.”

Yamamoto makes extremely intricate floor patterns made of salt. This might remind many people of the Tibetan Mandalas that are made of colorful sand that can take weeks to make, only to be tossed away in the wind. Yamamoto’s work really speaks to the pure dedication and meditative state that he must get into to so carefully and painstakingly create these beautiful designs. Like the mandalas, some of his pieces can take weeks to complete, and thousands of pounds of salt are used. His patience eventually creates incredibly beautiful installations.

His use of salt is closely related to Japanese culture. Yamamoto explains, “Salt seems to possess a close relation with human life beyond time and space, moreover, especially in Japan, it is indispensable in the death culture.” Interestingly enough, people leaving funerals are often sprinkled with salt to ward of evil. in 1994, when his sister passed away at the young age of 24, he began making this type of art as a way to deal with the grief. He told 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.”

The art is supposed to convey eternity, which is surprising due to its impermanence. However, when the exhibition has ended, the artist requests that the salt be returned to the sea, which continues its eternal existance while changing from one form to the next. At one point the salt could have began in an ocean somewhere, only to be returned and serving new a different purposes. The artist hopes that the salt may have at one point helped the existance of a creature. “I believe that salt enfolds the memory of lives.” Tibetan Mandalas speak to the impermanence of things, and how not to hold on to material things. By letting the mandalas blow away in the wind, they speak to the same mindset as Yamamoto, and allow the sand to take new forms and have new meaning.

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