Bothwell’s Notan

November 10th, 2007

Three examples of notan from Dorr Bothwell‘s Notan: The Dark-Light Principle of Design.

Pebbles in stream

First, perceive the black shapes above as weights. Allow your attention to shift from one weight to another.

“Now consider the black shapes no longer as weights or things, but as HOLES — or NO-THINGS. You might imagine, for instance, that you are looking at a piece of solid white wood full of empty black holes. This visual exchange — the perception of a shift from things to no-things, from no-things to things — is characteristic of Notan” (p21).

Finally, perceive the composition as “a representation no longer of HOLES but of BLACK ROCKS in WHITE WATER. If and when this representation is realized, both the negative and positive spaces will no longer alternate in their existence, but will interact in an interchangeable balance. The rocks and water will become equally important, equally real. This is the creation of Notan” (p21-22).

Pueblo bird

Clay dish. Pueblo Indian work, Acoma, New Mexico.

“Working within the confines of the shape of the plate, [the Pueblo Indian craftsman] succeeded in designing a bird that would become an inseparable part of the whole or a design in which the spaces around the bird would assume a form with an exchange of positive and negative… And when this is discovered, the negative space will no longer be ’empty’, but, instead, there will be Notan” (p8).

Yang-yin horizon

“A variation of the Yang-Yin symbolizing the horizon with the sun rising and setting” (p7).

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