Yamamoto Motoi is a contemporary Japanese artist known for his works exploring themes like sorrow, grief, mourning, and memory. He was born in Hiroshima in 1966 and graduated from the Kanazawa College of Art. In 1996, he lost his sister to brain cancer and this tragic event altered his art, acting as a starting point for his creations where he works with salt. According to Yamamoto, each grain of salt is associated with a memory he spent with his sister before her death.
In some cultures, salt is an important element linked to people’s lives. In Japan, salt is indispensable to some funeral customs and it represents purity. Yamamoto, initially, addressed different themes with a wide range of materials. But eventually, he chose funerals and salt. He associated salt with his sister’s purity and their memories together.
Unfortunately, in 2016, he lost his wife to breast cancer. In his own words, Yamamoto grieves the shock and sadness that occurs when something important disappears from right in front of you. He accepted the impossibility of reunion, faced the conflict, and gave it shape with salt. In a way, his works act as a coping mechanism in the face of grief. Throughout his career, he had different exhibitions where he explored the themes of grief, the cycle of life and death, and memories.
Yamamoto sits on the floor and draws for hours to retain the memories that weaken with time. He does not have assistants, but because he wants his art to be a collective human experience, on the last day of his exhibitions, he invites visitors to scoop up the salt and return it to the sea. This act represents the ongoing cycle of life and death as salt returns to its natural source.