Double Take : Finding a Secret Canyon in Hokusai's Great Wave

in #art5 years ago


The Great Canyon off Kanagawa

In 2011 I presented a solo exhibition called DOUBLE TAKE in which I explored the possibilities of creating and discovering new worlds hidden within well-known imagery. In one of my original works, I derived a landscape topography from the famous Hokusai woodblock print The Great Wave off Kanagawa, built the topography using lasercut plexiglass, and then created a hand-drawing of the landscape. When viewed from above the familiar image is clearly visible, but from all other angles the viewers are afforded a completely new relationship with the painting they've seen countless times before.



The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai (1829-1833)



Exhibition view of topography and landscape drawing


Above view of topography
plexiglass acrylic


Eye-level drawing of The Great Wave landscape
pencil and ink on paper

Exhibition Concept:

Visitors to the exhibition were presented with the following poster upon entry. The blurb at the bottom describes the concept behind the landscape sculptures:


How did I make this?

The process for creating the topography was based on one understanding: the darkest portions of the image should be the valleys and the lightest portions should be the mountains. That way the darkest portions (the blues of the wave, the darkness on the horizon, the linework) would be the parts of the landscape with the deepest darkest shadows, while the lightest portions (the foam of the wave, the sky) would catch the most light.


I derived the layers of the topography by taking the image into photoshop, converting it to black and white, and then gradually adjusting the “Threshold” levels. In this way I was able to tease out eighteen layers which start with the lightest portions as the top layer of the topo, gradually getting darker and darker as the layers get lower and lower.


These eighteen layers were then taken into Illustrator and “Image Traced” in order to get the outlines. The next and last step was sending those outlines to the laser cutter and glueing the twenty layers together by hand, one piece at a time!



The resulting landscape bears an uncanny resemblance to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. The way Hokusai drew the foam of the wave somehow translated into vertical pillars very similar to the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. The similarities are striking!


Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, USA

Thanks for reading!
This sculpture/drawing is one in a series of five.
To see other works in this series, check out my previous posts:
Mona Lisa | Girl with a Pearl Earring
Drawing Hands | Persistence of Memory



I've got the biggest smile on my face reading and seeing this post. I have an original print of this Hokusai wave and it's hung framed in my home and I've looked at it every single day since I was 7 years old. I know and love this piece and yes it's so common an image that people don't even look at it anymore. But I do! I love the texture and subtle color values, the power of the feeling held within and rich meaning. Because it's a woodblock print, it has these clean edges and that lend perfectly your topographical exploration. As always, you are wonderfully creative and I so appreciate your work!

I'm so glad you enjoyed this @natureofbeing! Thanks for the support. Yeah it's so easy to let these ubiquitous images fade into the background every time we walk past them. Since you have a special relationship with this print, I'm glad to hear you didn't feel like my transformation was blasphemous! This series of sculptures was as much about forcing myself to take a closer look at these images as it was about creating something new. There are so many details I never took the time to notice!

I found your transformation creative and not at all blasphemous! In fact it focused on an aspect of the print and made me think more about it when it was previously something I acknowledged instinctively but not consciously.

Okay glad to hear it!

Inspiring, I just want to gobble it up its so good. Thanks for sharing, excited to see more of your work.

Thanks so much @solar!

Really great @erb. Thanks for sharing some of the process. I resteemed it on my blog @the189 .. Hope you will follow along :)

Thanks for the support @oen!

Congrats..great project! thanks for posting about it.

wow! I really enjoyed reading about all your process in creating this piece! wonderful!

Thanks for reading @romanie! Glad you like it

Now this is what I call creativity. While I agree that it looks like the Bryce Canyon, the third last picture made me think of a large city with tall skyscrapers.

Cool! Always happy to hear when people see things in my work that I never saw. Thanks @oyvindsabo!