Motoi Yamamoto

Motoi Yamamoto’s work has jumped out and caught my eye a few times over the last year so I thought I should have a look a bit deeper and record my thinking for future reference. I suspect his work is very easy for me to enjoy. Words like beauty, skill, time, duration and immersion can be applied to it, and these are words that I distrust because I’m easily seduced by them as concepts. I have to be harder on myself when it comes to analysing the conceptual and contextual ‘whys’ around the work I’m drawn to.

So, beyond the appealing aesthetic nature of pattern, geometry and form, how is the work speaking to me? Reading about Motoi’s practice I can see parallels with my practice and his interest in the ritual trance state he enters when creating his salt labyrinth works. There is a sense that he passes into something of an otherworldly state where nothing exists but the creation of the work. I imagine the experience of time and duration all but disappearing as the experience of the process takes over. It reminds me of the mandalas created by buddhist monks as a moving meditation, a ritual of creation and destruction where the intricate works are painstakingly constructed them swept away.

There is also the symbolic nature of the material; salt plays a big part in Japanese Shinto ritual with blessing, cleansing and purifying – Motoi talks about the salt creating connections to his sister who he lost to illness and how the material relates to memory for him. Salt transcends cultural symbolism by having worldwide connotations around purity, the sea, sanctity, cleansing, protection which allows non-Japanese viewers easy access to the work. I feel that his work is deeply personal and emotional, while at the same time being very relatable and accessible to viewers. To me, that is very successful.





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Wolfgang Laib

A friend of mine saw the work I’ve been doing with beeswax, honey and, most recently, bee pollen and suggested I take a look at Wolfgang Laib.
“Informed by the purity and simplicity of Eastern philosophies, he employs natural materials, most notably milk, pollen, beeswax, rice and marble. His works are more complex than being just about nature and the natural world. They involve ritual, repetition, process, and a demand for contemplation.”

I can’t believe I hadn’t seen his work before! His exploration of the ephemeral and eternal through a minimalist approach is very appealing to me. His choice of materials obviously resonates, but also exploration of duration of time, ritual, repetition and symbolism of material. His pollen works, wax room works and milkstones are of particular interest to me. His use of white, yellow, gold, black reflects the colour palettes and materials I have been using, especially in my sculptural pieces, but it has reached a place that I obviously never did. My works in progress videos at present have a set that uses the very same colour palette and similar symbolic materials, drawing on work I created earlier this year and last year. Probably for the best that I didn’t see this body of work earlier, because I might have been either too influenced by it, or scared away from working with the materials I had chosen for fear that I wouldn’t be able to avoid steering too close to Laib. I feel that if I wasn’t working the way I am now, that this would be the kind of direction I might be moving in. It can be so difficult deciding what direction is right for the work, especially when there are potential directions that are formally very different but could still produce the outcome the work requires. I’ve identified my work as NOT minimalist and NOT formalist, but I still have a big place in my heart for that way of working, so who knows?


Joyce Campbell (2015) Flightdream

“This Monster first approached me through a dream. I was the monster, or so it seemed. I was flying as one flies through the air in dream. I did not know I was under water…And then I saw myself.
Unseen, it may be accurate to call the Monster beautiful. Full of the beauty of nakedness so secret it might as well be dead. It has no arms, no legs. It extends a nervous system into pure volume. A sensory flowering, delimning the currents as they stream deep through the frigid hydrosphere.”
Mark von 
Schlegell, Flugtraum (excerpt)


I find it hard to describe how mesmerising I found this moving image work and the accompanying soundtrack by Pete Kolvos. The changing, disintegrating forms flow in slow motion within a landscape that could be equally the depths of space or the bottom of the ocean. It could be a journey through a nebula, an encounter with an intergalactic entity, or the birth of a diaphanous sea beast. The forms are suspended within a blackness so deep that it’s volume is unknowable and the light that illuminates them shifts and pulses with the scrape and groan of the soundtrack.


The 25min looped video was inspired by the short story Flugtraum (Mark von Schegell) which was in turn inspired by Campbell’s Marianas (2002-2003) photographic series – interesting to see an artist and a writer reflecting back and forth upon each others work. Flugtraum is apparently about a diver plummeting into the ocean’s depths onboard a bathysphere in search of a ‘monster’ and with the knowledge that his own end will be found within the belly of the beast. The formless strangeness of the beast is conjured in Campbells ephemeral shapes and movements, tendrils and uncurling systems. I was even more excited to discover that the process of creating these forms was by electrochemical corrosion within a liquid bath. Knowing how much I love chemical (and alchemical) processes the whole idea of the creation of forms through the destruction of other forms through a chemical reaction was very appealing to me.


Hive Oracle – April 2015

Hive Oracle – watch movie at Vimeo

Creating this performative video was a real departure from the mediums I’ve worked in so far. I have a list of words and ideas that I compiled after the April Seminar that I’ve been exploring in my research.

– The idea of a shadow world, strangeness in time and space, otherworldly, hypnotic. I want to continue to explore these ideas in my work.

– I need to examine duration in my work. What would realtime do? Authenticity versus affect.

– Tying into that is the use of cinematic orthodoxies and the tropes of theatre. Artifice. I’m curious as to how I can use these in a totally unselfconscious way to produce certain affect. It’s a bit of a fine line between cliched/naff and something that works the way i want it to, it can easily be pushed too far and fall over. The same with earnestness versus parody, it’s tricky but I’m interested in exploring it.

– Trace of Performance. This is important and has been coming up again and again with my work. I’m currently exploring how this can be used and will write a post about what I have discovered.

– Performing to camera. Is this a performance or is it a video work? What makes it one or the other? What happens if the performance is not to camera? There was also quite a bit of feedback from viewers around how they felt the direct eye-contact was challenging which I felt was a positive response to the work.

– I also need to examine the role of scent and sound in the work to create a full enveloping experience. I’ve used scent for some time now and would like to keep that as part of my practice.

Unmonumental – Object in the 21st Century

“Recuperating the tradition of assemblage and the prehensile alertness of collage, todays sculpture seems to be less engaged in interrogating its own status than it is over excited by the idea of annexing the whole world to it’s own body.” p65

This blog entry is in response to the essay;
Gioni, M. (2007) Ask The Dust.
Flood, R. Hoptman, L. Gioni, M (Ed.) (2007) Unmonumental – Object in the 21st Century. London, England: Phaidon Press.

I found this essay by M. Gioni to be a very good precis of the changes in sculptural practice from classical form to 21st Century object based works. It extends my understanding from Rosalind Krauss’s writing on the Extended Field into contemporary practice.

Gioni starts much as Krauss did, discussing the tradition of sculpture as tied to the monumental; statues of remembrance, funerary monuments, depictions of people and things past or legendary. It’s permanence and solidity was important, it was placed on a pedestal creating a separation between the place the viewer exists and the place the sculpture exists.

Modernism sees the sculpture brought down from it’s pedestal or the pedestal is incorporated into the sculpture itself. Both Gioni and Krauss draw attention to Constantin Brancusi’s “Endless Column” as a seminal work in this era. Not only was the work autonomous and free standing it also was non site-specific and was made a number of times in different materials and scales in different spaces; in several cases actually becoming hugely monumental.

The monumental was still present when sculptural work moved in the Expanded Field. Many of those works – particularly the site construction and marked site works – were hugely ambitious in scope and size. In the 1960s Minimalist sculpture still held onto the monumental through it’s extreme manufactured, artificial appearance and use of industrial materials. Gioni also includes installation work in his assessment of the monumental through it’s often grandiose experiential qualities.

He sees the emergence of unmonumental 21st century sculptural work thusly:
“… the emergence of this sculptural language has been rather spontaneous and disorderly, and it has only recently coalesced into a more recognisable pattern.” p65

It seems that this form of object-making has been born from an affluent world exhausted by commodity and filled with refuse. (Gioni points out that this art practice is mainly found in the US and Europe). It is not a collective or cohesive creativity, it is not concerned with relational aesthetics, it is brought together more by an interest in incorporating found objects, secondhand images, detritus and waste items. It has strong ties to the Arte Povera movement with it’s anti-establishment, nonconventional desire to break down the barriers between ‘art’ and common items.

“It is a profoundly modest, radically anti-heroic art…” p68

While reading this book I was drawn to the work of Matthew Monahan. His work incorporates plinths and glass cases that harken back to the classically monumental; the classic form of sculpture as artefact of remembrance and the plinth and case as display methods separating the art from the viewer. Monahan’s work defies the monumental in part by it’s use of material and in part by it’s quiet, reflective nature. I love the drywall used in the plinth-type structures, the way the edges crumble, the way it’s tacked together, the bright colours of the surface and the stark white of the interior, how it looks like it’s just offcuts from a building site that have been pulled out of a bin. I also love the rather random, found, broken nature of the objects that are ‘displayed’ upon the plinths and within the glass. Some of them have an almost traditional bronze, ceramic or stone sculptural quality but are distorted or broken, combined with bits of this and that, both venerated and degraded. They remind me of personal reliquaries where various treasures are collected and stored, they have private significance but their specialness might not be understood by anyone else.



Matthew Monahan. Selection of work from Saatchi Gallery


Matthew Monahan (2005) Guild of Mad Builders
Drywall, wax, pigment, metal, paper, 155 x 22 x 22cm

Ocean Without a Shore – Bill Viola

“Originally commissioned for the 2007 Venice Biennale,Ocean Without a Shore was first shown in the 15th century Church of the Oratorio San Gallo, a short distance from the Piazza San Marco. Inspired by the writings of Senegalese poet Birago Diop, it takes its title from Andalusian Sufi mystic Ibn Arabi, who wrote, “The Self is an ocean without a shore. Gazing upon it has no beginning or end, in this world and the next.” Viola’s work expresses this sentient self and, bathing the viewer in a sensorium of light and sound, is a masterpiece that asks us to reflect upon fundamental ideas of love, hope, sorrow, anxiety, death, regeneration, and being.”
Quote sourced from

Bill Viola, Ocean Without a Shore, 2007, Video and sound installation, running time: approx. 90 minutes, PAFA, 2010.22

Since I came across this work I have watched the available online video clips multiple times. The incredible creation of an invisible threshold by the passing of bodies through a wall of water is otherworldly and magical. The work utilises flickering, grainy black and white footage on one side of the threshold, then as they pass through they become full-colour super high definition. The choice of video technique, the slo motion movement and the ephemerality of the water-wall threshold highlights the fragility of life and the fineness of the border between life and death, between one reality and another.

Link to video footage:



Light Show – Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki, November 2014

This show has been particularly inspirational for me, not just due to the incredible quality of the work, but because much of it gave me context and inspiration for my own practice. Use of light and shadow within my work, as well as sensory experience is something that has been suggested to me by a number of people, and it’s an idea that I’m curious about developing. I found food for thought in all of the pieces in the ‘Light Show’, but there were several that have kept me thinking and coming back to them.

Ann Veronica Janssens Galleria Alfonso Artiaco Naples - ItalyAnn Veronica Janssens “Rose” (2007) struck me with it’s use of saturated colour, misting and light creating an ephemeral geometric sculpture in mid-air, the shape of which only becomes apparent from certain angles. I loved the way a seemingly volumetric object was created out of smoke and light, and the way the ‘solid’ shape could be walked through and interacted with.

YAIH-Photograph01(col).tifAnthony McCall’s “You and I Horizontal” (2006) captivated me for similar reasons. It had similar qualities of solidly created from ephemeral substances and it also contained movement which led to the work changing over time. This work encouraged even more participation from the viewer to actually stand and move within the sculpture itself and affect the very form of the work.

chromosaturation-by-carlos-cruz-diez-10Another work that I spent a lot of time with was Carlos Cruz-Diez’s work “Chromosaturation” (2008). This one interested me for it’s immersive environment and they effect it has on the viewer who spends time within it. The intensity of the colours, the shifts between them and shapes inside the environment all serve to create a kind of, not unpleasant, disorientation in the viewer. I have been interested in investigating creation works that use environments to create responses in viewers through stimulation of various senses and this was a perfect example of the way intense colour works.

Wedgework-V-1974One of my favourite pieces for it’s subtlety and unexpectedness was James Turrell’s “Wedgework V” (1974). The passage into the work through the pitch black, having to be led by an usher, was a disquieting but quite exciting experience. On entering the work’s viewing area and sitting down to let my eyes adjust I initially thought I was looking at a screen and was waiting for something to happen. The space beyond the threshold was entirely unexpected! The feeling I got from placing my arm beyond the frame was akin to mild vertigo and I was transfixed by the effect the work had on my perception of space: even though I *knew* what the work was physically, my eyes and brain couldn’t reconcile it which left me feeling slightly off-balance.

Olaf Eliasson’s featured work “Model for a Timeless Garden”, 2011 was a captivating piece, but researching him I discovered several other works that I would have loved to have seen and that fit a bit more into my area of interest.

d1d85cad896b251253dd0a6ea0a01854‘Beauty’ (1993) uses a soft curtain of water droplets illuminated by spotlights to create the temporary vision of a rainbow from a certain point in the room. The elements I love about this work are similar to those in Ann Veronica Janssens “Rose” (2007); the way the image or object is created from something so transient and weightless, the way the image is only visible from certain points, while the work as a whole can be seen form multiple angles, the fragile yet impactful nature of the work.

url-5 “The Weather Project” (2003) Tate Modern Turbine Hall, deals with colour saturation and it’s effect on the viewer in a similar vein to Carlos Cruz-Diez’s “Chromosaturation” (2008) but on and even grader scale and with only one light frequency, the added texture of mist and a reflective ceiling. I would love to experience this piece!


cerith-wyn-evans-superstructure-20101Two final pieces are worth including here due to the movement and transformation experienced while watching the works; Leo Villarreal’s “Cylinder II” (2012) and Cerith Wyn Evans “S=U=P=E=R=S=T=R=U=C=T=U=R=E (‘Trace me back to some loud, shallow, chill, underlying motive’s overspill…’) (2010). While “Cylinder II” is like a cold, twinkling starscape in the midst of a vast ocean or galaxy, “S=U=P=E=R=S=T=R=U=C=T=U=R=E” pulses with life and radiates vast amounts of heat. Both works seemed alive, possibly sentient, and they really inhabited the space they were installed within like great, living creatures. While  “Cylinder II” sparkled and flared, “S=U=P=E=R=S=T=R=U=C=T=U=R=E” breathed and pulsed with huge, hot sighs.

Lauson, C. (2013) Light Show. MIT Press. Cambridge: USA.


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