Category Archives: Assignment 3

CAT 3 Assignment report 514783


Here is Carla’s report on my essay for Part 3.

Here are some questions she asked–

Regarding the original image by Hokusai, do you know how many prints were made from the original woodcut?

It’s estimated that 5000 to 8000 prints were made 

Though thousands were printed, it’s estimated only hundreds of The Great Wave off Kanagawa remain.

Where was it first shown?

likely printed between 1829 and 1832 – When this print was first produced it cost just a bit more to buy than a double helping of Soba noodles.

In 1859, a wave of Japanese prints flowed across Europe, winning adoration from the likes of Vincent Van Gogh, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and Claude Monet.

Is some of the symbolism reliant on an understanding of Japanese culture at the time, and how might those symbols (specifically Mount Fuji, the wave and the specific type of boat) be interpreted differently by today’s audience in other parts of the world?

Mount Fuji is considered sacred by many and has inspired a literal cult following.

This particular rogue wave can actually be measured thanks to the three fishing boats (oshiokuri-bune). Cartwright and Nakamura used their known size to determine The Great Wave off Kanagawa is roughly 32 to 39 feet tall.

Does this highlight any possible changes in interpretation or approach to visual communications over time and place?

The view on Art has changed – over time and place in Japan compared to today’s quick art, impermanence, and visual screen culture. The flow of information and vision is so quick, it looses much of its meaning.

Christine Guth, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London said

“Within Japan, woodblock prints weren’t seen as art, they were seen as a popular form of expression and commercial printing.”

Once used for Buddhist text, woodblock prints had become synonymous with illustrations for poems and romance novels. So, Japan’s government officials and art historians were less than thrilled that such a seemingly lowbrow art form had come to define them. 


Some of the points you make that are missing from the essay are:

• The importance of Mount Fuji in terms of providing a sense of scale/distance, as
well as the significance in Japanese culture.

I mentioned in my essay that Mount Fuji was the center grounding point in the composition– because of its importance.  I failed to mention that the great wave has become the most famous of his series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.

The mountain has always been considered sacred and some of the original purchasers of the print, ordinary townspeople, were believers in the so-called ‘Fuji cult’. They periodically made group pilgrimages to climb the mountain; although only men were allowed to go all the way to the top.

Mt Fuji is by far the highest mountain in Japan, but in Hokusai’s print it is relegated to the far distance and dwarfed by the gigantic wave in the foreground. The spray from the wave starts to look like snow falling onto the peak of the mountain, a visual joke.
• Details about the types of boats and the cultural significance of these

Fishing boats? Not sure what cultural significance, other than I mentioned their fragility/ man-made
• Commentary from other writers about the images (it can be helpful to include
quotes within the essay to support your own arguments)

Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem,  “The Mountain,”

The Mountain

Six and thirty times and hundred times
the painter tried to capture the mountain,
tore it up, then pushed on again
(six and thirty times and hundred times)

to the incomprehensible volcanoes,
blissful, full of temptation, without counsel,—
while the outlines of his glory
went on without coming to an end:

Fading a thousand times out of all the days,
nights without comparison from which
dropped, as if they were all too small;
each image at the moment it was needed,
increasing from figure to figure,
not partaking and far and without viewpoint—,
then suddenly knowing, as in a vision,
lifting itself up behind every crevice.

*Rilke revered Hokusai perseverance to capture just the perfect image on Mt.Fuji.

• You often talk of the perfection of composition, but it would be helpful to include a
little more detail about this in your analysis

Perhaps looking at traditional values of Japanese aesthetics such as rule of thirds, asymmetry, balance, harmony, movement.etc


A History of the world, BBC, [1-8-17]

15 Things you may not know about the great wave, Mental Floss, available at [1-8-17]


Reflections | Part 3

On a whole I really enjoyed exploring visual communications, especially looking at it from graphic design perspective, in relation to marketing and brand identity.  I’ve related some of the aspects I explored in my own creative endeavors, which has inspired me to re-brand my clothing label.

One thing I’ve learnt is there are very few original ideas in new media, most have been re-appropriated, modernized, or inspired by bygone designs. We must constantly look to the past in order to move forward.  There is so much design inspiration, it can be overwhelming.  I had a look at the reading list at the end of this chapter, the design websites were incredible: Design Observer – Eye Magazine –  Varoom – . I want to subscribe to all and buy all the books, including Alexander Girard: A Designer’s Universe.  I want a library full of every book reviewed, I want to study fonts and identity design, and more so, I want to be able to use the software to create images, derived from classic and iconic work.

I think this is why I was so drawn to The Great Wave as a re-appropriated image, because the composition is flawless, and therefore timeless. It’s a quest to find the points in history, where Artists have created something so perfect, be it a colour combination, a font, a shoe, an icon, or a sketch. We need to ask, why does it work so perfectly?  What is it about the spacing, the opacity, the grit, or the simplicity of balance or asymmetry. Are the shapes based on a geometric pattern passed down from the bronze age, or are they naturally occurring in nature?

For example, on The Designer and Book blog I found these books

The American Chap-Book, written and designed by Will Bradley


They were distributed by the American Type Founders Company, with articles written about “Directness and Simplicity,” “The Use of Borders and Ornaments,” and “Appropriateness.”

The fact that they are beautifully formed, composed, and designed books, made to improve aesthetics further, makes them a product of design perfection.

Visual studies are overwhelmingly massive, but I think it’s here, that you find artistic inspiration, and tools through research and discovery, to find your own voice, taking from the never-ending pot of new and old media available to us everywhere.

By exploring all types of visual communications, we can begin to filter out the overused, mundane, and conventional images, in order to express new ideas through clear, cleaver and concise design.

As always there is so much to learn, in this endless journey, the more you look, the more you discover, the more you realise how much you don’t know.  It can be daunting, but I need to remember I am a student, not an author, this is why I am here.

I was so happy to take the opportunity to look how I could improve design/ branding for my own label, The old is new again. The image of a winged seed stuck with me, the idea of a dandelion, at the end of its life, flying away, ready to re-seed again, to create new life someplace else.

Untitled design(4)
my new logo



Assignment 3

C.A.T. Assignment 3

Open College of Arts

Visual Arts
Re-appropriating images


By Alyssa Maddalozzo


In this essay I will be comparing the wood block print, “ The Great Wave” by Hakusai with the anamorphic sculpture of found objects by Bernard Pras, by the same name.

“An image is a sight which has been recreated or reproduced, it is an appearance, or a set of Appearances, which has been detached  from the place and time in which it first made its appearance and preserved.” – Jon Berger, Ways of Seeing.

Similarities, differences and semiotics.

The movement of The Wave in both images has a fluid harmony, which Hokusai developed through many attempts and years of practice.  Mount Fuji in the distance is a symbol of beauty.  It remains in the center; it is the grounding-point of the composition. There is a yin and yang balance between the strength of The Wave and the determination of the men of the fragile boat, fighting for their lives.  Pras’ attention to detail successfully gives justice to Hokusai’s original composition, both in shape and colour.

The original image is derived from the impression of a woodcut (Ukiyo-e), a technique older than the printing press.  It was published sometime between 1829 and 1833 and is only 25.7 cm × 37.8 cm.  The original impression of the print can be seen in various collections around the world, including Claude Monet’s house.

Pras’ image is a photograph of an anamorphic sculpture, meaning it could only be seen in one place, from one perspective. Once’s Pras’ sculpture was photographed, it was disassembled and then discarded.

The impermanence of Pras’ sculpture in contrast with the physical imprint of Hokusai’s Great Wave, which is preserved in more than one location around the world, shows the difference between old media and new media —  art physically preserved and art discarded, but preserved through a digital memory.

Hokusai’s image was produced to demonstrate the force of the sea, from his own perspective of living on the island of Japan. The Wave shows the isolating and dangerous effect the sea has on the inhabitants, whereas Pras’ reproduction of the image using found objects, most of which are plastic, represents the disastrous effects humans have had on the sea, through the industrial fabrication of plastic, alongside human consumption.  The shift of power has changed, from nature to human.

Pras has carefully chosen objects which are not only the correct size and colour to complete the values of the composition: they also hold meaning. For example, the blue lines which create the crescent of the wave are floating devices sometimes referred to as noodles, which could be interpreted as an ironic statement towards the fragility of the wooden boats.  Another example are the hands on top of the wave, which introduce a human aspect, perhaps menacing, reaching down towards the boats, threatening their lives. Other symbolic objects include white doves, which demonstrate peace, and wings, perhaps a sign of hope. The various farm animals could be interpreted into a question: what effect has the farming industry had on global warming, the rise in sea levels, the destruction of forests — looking not just to the seas but around the world?


Connectivity and cultural visual language.

The Great Wave is now an emoji, which could possibly be the antithesis of modern visual language. It is the only famous image to have been translated into a the communication tool that all nation’s languages can understand.  There are no need for words anymore, when there are small images, the size of letters, even those illiterate could understand.

This highlights the change in attitudes and approaches to visual communication to a hugely broad world, a world attributed to anyone with a smart phone.

There is a 200 year gap from when the Great Wave was first published, to when Bras’ photograph of the anamorphic sculpture was released, so it’s important to look at how they relate to the culture of their time.




In Japan,  Ukiyo-e, or woodblock printing, flourished from the 17th -19th centuries, making its way to mainland Europe in 1870 and contributing to the prominent trend of Japonism.  Hokusai’s art influenced early impressionists such as Degas, Manet, and Monet, as well as post-impressionists such as Van Gogh and art nouveau artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec.

Van Gogh said this about “The Great Wave” in a letter to his brother Theo Van Gosh:

“These waves are claws, the boat is caught in them, you can feel it. Ah well, if we made the colour very correct or the drawing very correct, we wouldn’t create those emotions.”



Bernard Pras communicates a green message by using the texture and dimension of found objects in his creations and literally turns trash into treasure, relating to a generation who are concerned for the future of their planet, by appreciating the works of past artists. Pras has a platform on social media, where his work is often distributed through blogs.  It has a uniqueness, which at the same time has a commercial appeal. It is clever as it relates to a greater audience, who all recognise the re-appropriation of his images.


Social Change

While at the time of Hokusai, the world looked to the sky, to a spirit, for hope, today’s societies are looking more to social media to bring forth a message of change. Hokusai had a massive influence on Western art, gaining popularity through his beautiful aesthetics brought forth from traditional culture.

Artist such as Pras communicate this language by re-appropriating images, such as Hokusai’s timeless piece, connecting the past to the present by looking into the future, wanting to preserve all three tenses of time.



Looking at time and place in relation to these two images, the permanence of the original Wave has been imprinted not only physically around the world but also in each of our mind’s-eye. The impermanence of Pras’ image is more of a warning, a beacon, a reminder, of what the world was and what it could potentially become.

As Jon Berger said about the reproduction of images, they can be detached from their original meaning to symbolise a change in society, but they can also preserve time and tradition. It is important to understand the context of where the image is viewed, be that on a computer screen, in a museum, or on a postcard. Our place in time, our eye’s view, is a chance to understand each time, a new meaning at that moment.




Ways of Seeing, Jon Berger available at [29-5-17]

Bored Panda, Bernard Pras, available at [25-5-17]

The Royal Society journal of the history of science, available at [28-5-17]
Van Gogh letters, Theo van Gogh. Arles, Saturday, 8 September 1888.Available at [29-5-17]
Artist Bernard Pras, Euromaxx, available at [3-4-17]

Assignment three Re-appropriating images | 2

  • Also reflect on where the original is currently located. Where did you access it? Did you see the original or have you seen a reproduction in print, online or elsewhere? What does this tell you about our modern relationship to the example you’ve chosen? Does it highlight any change in attitudes or approaches to visual communication more broadly?

Because the original is derived from a wood block, there are many impressions of the print  in many Western collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne,[3] and in Claude Monet‘s house in Giverny, France, among many other collections.

There is actually a Great Wave emoji –water-wave

Which is probably the antithesis of modern visual language. I do believe it is the only image/ painting / print which has been made into an emoji.  Communication has become such, that we have found a common visual language in images called emoji’s.  There’s no need for letters to express emotions, when there are so many variation of the happy face.

I think this highlights the change in attitudes and approaches to visual communication to a hugely broad world, anyone with an iPhone.

  • Now reflect on your chosen re-appropriated image. Why was it produced, how has it been shown to audiences and what do you think their interpretations are?

I believe it was produced to question human’s relationship with garbage/ rubbish/ trash and the environment, the re-production is a sculpture made of found items, mostly plastic.

I find it interested, how there is a shift regarding the viewing classic paintings before the time of the printing press.  There was only one way to see the image, in a Museum, church, or gallery, where it hung.  There was only the relationship of place and time, the viewer only saw that image in context of its surrounding.  On the other hand, the famous wood block impression was reproduced to be seen in more than one place. Whereas, my chosen re-appropriation can physically only be seen from one perspective, as it is composed of object, when perfectly alined, are the Great Wave. John Berger talks about this in his series “ways of seeing” of which I have writen a blog post about, see here.

Jon Berger says this about viewing paintings

The uniqueness of every painting was once part
of the uniqueness of the place where it resided. Sometimes the
painting was transportable. But it could never be seen in two
places at the same time. When the camera repr’oduces a
painting, it destroys the uniqueness of its image. As a result its
meaning changes. Or, more exactly, its
multiplies and
fragments into many meanings.

I suppose this is true for block-printing.

Of course there are photographs and digital images distribute through means of social media, blogs such as Bored Panda.


  • Make a comparison between the two images. You may want to place the two versions side by side and annotate the visual similarities, differences and other comparisons you make. How does the new work make reference to the old? Does it maintain, subvert or alter the original message in any way and, if so, how does this take place visually? Think about the visual elements of the two items. How is image, composition, typography, visual narrative or any other element used to construct meaning?



visual similarities:

  1. Almost identical scale
  2. Colours – although wood print in more muted.
  3. The shapes are close to being perfect


  1. print vs. sculpture
  2. can only be seen from one direction vs. wood print can be replicated
  3. found objects which have been discarded vs. traditional making process
  4. 3D vs 2D
  5. anamorphic effect vs stable wood printing

other comparisons

I really like that he used floating aides (blue line tubes) in his waves is quite humorous, a bit of a dig on the original boats which are probably going to capsize.  The hands on top of the wave bring a human element to the wave, which is very similar to the original.

The image shifts from being an iconic Japanese print into a question about pollution and the planet. It’s very much a contradiction between old and new, traditional and worn, simple and complex,  wood and plastic.

Pras reconstructs the image with such precision, giving due credit to Hokusai’s original composition, which is perfectly balanced, with an incredible stability and fluidity, whilst shifting the perception, from traditional time-consuming view, to modern quick,  throw away culture.

  • Try and make connections between how the original and the re-appropriated image relate to one another both in terms of their visual construction and their context. This might lead to thoughts about wider cultural and social change, as well as differences in the use of visual communication and media at different times.

The photograph of Bras’ anamorphic scultures do do the compositions justice, but to see them in person, would totally shift the perception of view, depending on where they are stood, like optical illustions, which are better witnessed in person. The scale of the objects are lost, and perhaps the sculptures are inpermanent, can they be transported, or is it a once in a lifetime chance to see,  in one place. Most of the sculptures, which a only temporary until photographed, are the discarded.  The only thing that remains is a photograph.

Dziga Vertov says this about the invention of the camera:

Freed from the boundaries of time and space, I
co-ordinate any and all points of the universe, wherever
I want them to be. My way leads towards the creation
of a fresh perception of the world. Thus I explain in a
new way the world unknown to you.

The block print came way before the camera, even before the moveable press. Woodblock printing had been used in China for centuries to print books, (1603–1868).

Assignment three Re-appropriating images | 1.

Identify an example of re-appropriation within visual communication

By Katsushika Hokusai – Metropolitan Museum of Art, online database: entry 45434, Public Domain,
By: Bernard Pras |Can Only Be Seen From The Right Angle

Look at the original image and do a semiotic analysis. Describe its contents (denotation) and possible meanings (connotation) as you did in Part Three. Extend your enquiry by researching the original context of the image. Why was it produced, where and when was it originally located, and how might audiences have interpreted it?


The Great Wave (original) looks like the water is alive,strong and healthy, taking the two fragile looking boats into a strong embrace. The water at the crescent of the wave looks like tendrils or fingers coming down onto the boat, as the men bow down to the sea. Mount Fuji in the background let’s you know they are just off shore, but far enough out, not to be safe.


The possible meaning could be the fragility of man in comparison the strength of the sea. With only a wooden boat keeping the men above the water, it would be so very easy for the sea to tip them over.  It’s hard to say if Hokusai wants us to believe they will survive. The men on the boat a bowing, perhaps asking the water to forgive them for their foolish nature, and spare their small lives.


The Great Wave off Kanagawa (神奈川? Kanagawa-oki nami ura, “Under a wave off Kanagawa”), also known as The Great Wave or simply The Wave, is a woodblock print by the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hokusai

It was published sometime between 1829 and 1833[1] in the late Edo period as the first print in Hokusai’s series.

Impressions of the print are in many Western collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, and in Claude Monet‘s house in Giverny, France, among many other collections.

Original context of print (research)

The mountain with a snow-capped peak is Mount Fuji, which in Japan is considered sacred and a symbol of national identity, as well as a symbol of beauty.

The sea dominates the composition as an extending wave about to break. In the moment captured in this image, the wave forms a circle around the center of the design, framing Mount Fuji in the background.

In the scene there are three oshiokuri-bune, fast boats that are used to transport live fish from the and peninsulas to the markets of the bay of Edo. As the name of the piece indicates the boats are in Kanagawa prefecture, with Tokyo to the north, Mt Fuji to the northwest, the bay of Sagami to the south and the bay of Tokyo to the east. The boats, oriented to the southeast, are returning to the capital.

There are eight rowers per boat, clinging to their oars. There are two more passengers in the front of each boat, bringing the total number of human figures in the image to thirty. Using the boats as reference, one can approximate the size of the wave: the oshiokuri-bune were generally between 12 and 15 meters long, and noting that Hokusai reduced the vertical scale by 30%, the wave must be between 10 and 12 meters tall.[2]


The Great Wave off Kanagawa has two inscriptions. The first, within a rectangular cartouche in the top-left corner is the series title: “冨嶽三十六景/神奈川冲/浪裏” Fugaku Sanjūrokkei / Kanagawa oki / nami ura, which translates as “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji / Offshore from Kanagawa / Beneath the wave”. The second inscription, to the left, is the artist’s signature: 北斎改爲一筆 Hokusai aratame Iitsu hitsu


Edmond de Goncourt described the wave in this way:

The drawing of the wave is a deification of the sea made by a painter who lived with the religious terror of the overwhelming ocean completely surrounding his country; He is impressed by the sudden fury of the ocean’s leap toward the sky, by the deep blue of the inner side of the curve, by the splash of its claw-like crest as it sprays forth droplets.

Andreas Ramos, a writer, notes:

… a seascape with Fuji. The waves form a frame through which we see the mountain. The gigantic wave is a yin yang of empty space beneath the mountain. The inevitable breaking that we await creates a tension in the picture. In the foreground, a small wave forming a miniature Fuji is reflected by the distant mountain, itself shrunk in perspective. The little wave is larger than the mountain. The small fishermen cling to thin fishing boats, slide on a sea-mount looking to dodge the wave. The violent Yang of nature is overcome by the yin of the confidence of these experienced fishermen. Strangely, despite a storm, the sun shines high.


 I think viewers would have seen it as an incredibly well composed images, the ones only a master could produce. Within a Japanese context, its simplicity and balance creates harmony as well as reminding us about the fragility of life vs. nature. The strength of Mount Fuji grounds this print, while the ferocity of the waves unhinge gravity, as the delicate boats await their fate.