Co.Design

A Stunning, Intricate Maze Made From 2,200 Pounds of Salt

Motoi Yamamoto uses the ubiquitous white mineral to design unfathomably intricate — and deeply personal — floor sculptures.

Motoi Yamamoto has to be the most patient man in the world. A Japanese artist, Yamamoto uses salt to create monumental floor paintings, each so absurdly detailed, it makes A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte look like child's play. He calls them, fittingly, his Labyrinths.

Yamamoto's latest labyrinth creeps out from a brick tunnel at the Fondation Espace Ecureuil, a gallery in France. He made it — as he makes all these installations — by sprinkling salt on the floor through a plastic bottle used for machine oil, starting at the back of the tunnel, then moving forward to avoid stepping on the designs he's already drawn. The whole thing took 50 hours over the course of five days and a whopping 2,200 pounds of salt. We're getting high blood pressure just thinking about it!

Here's an older installation at Sankt Peter parish in Cologne:

The story behind Yamamoto's salt sculptures is sweet and sad. His sister died of brain cancer more than a decade ago. To honor her memory, he began sketching with salt — in Japan, a traditional symbol for purification and mourning. The meandering patterns are meant to convey a sense of eternity.

Yamamoto takes pains to extend the metaphor beyond the walls of the art gallery. In Cologne, he invited viewers to deconstruct the labyrinth and redistribute its salt elsewhere — in the sea or the soil or wherever else it might contribute to new life. He'll do the same at Fondation Espace Ecureuil, when the exhibit closes later this month.

[Images courtesy of Motoi Yamamoto; bottom two photos by Stefan Worring]

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7 Comments

  • Jackdaviesartist

    It is just salt on the floor, this is true. Are u aware that the artist has sketched into the salt?

  • Claire

    The work is wonderfully meditative,  obsessively natural  reminiscent of what earth and heated salt covered soils look like when dry. I'm reminded of the saying "Salt of the earth".

  • Bobby Shen

    Interesting comment Wendy, poses the question, why salt instead of a range of other white granular materials? Perhaps one that doesn't have such a delicate balance in life/death and other equilibria. Great works anyhow, did a short blog on it  http://creative-collision.blog...

  • Wendy Schultz

    "In Cologne, he invited viewers to deconstruct the labyrinth and redistribute its salt elsewhere -- in the sea or the soil or wherever else it might contribute to new life."Did he really?  in the soil?  traditionally, 'salting the earth' was a strategy to ensure your enemies could never plant again; salting soil would certainly not contribute to new life.

    Aside from that, stunning sculptures - beautiful, meditative, provocative, moving.  Thank you for the article.