Double Take : Finding a Secret Canyon in Hokusai's Great Wave
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.
pencil and ink on paper
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!
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