By on July 23rd, 2020



detail from Kawanabe Kyōsai’s Night Parade of One Hundred Demons. Found on Public Domain Images; images courtesy the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Adults and children huddle around a brazier, or coal fire, to hear ghost stories.”






detail from Kawanabe Kyōsai’s Night Parade of One Hundred Demons. Found on Public Domain Images; images courtesy the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art

“A man, perhaps the artist himself, has set down his calligraphy brush and reaches to extinguish a lamp. Once darkness falls, the demons will appear.”



To Signify: A Tincture of Pink



Night Parade of One-hundred Demons was created in 1890 by the great Japanese artist Kawanabe Kyōsai. He is considered a father of modern Manga. Wildly inventive, energy on a high boil, a Mad Magazine sensibility with rampant gift. The Public Domain Review featured this work recently and I was struck by one of the tropes. Although this artist’s palette can often be robust, in this series of horrors he employs almost nothing but pastels. Notably pink, with a few blood-red exceptions.



Why? We can’t ask him but can still make observations. Maybe he’d agree.



I think it’s to slyly invoke creepiness via contrast. Where you’d expect garish you get pastel. But a monk with his eyeballs hanging down his cheeks? Pastel? Instead of robust primaries or blue-note tertiaries?*



The hundred demons we’re promised come with all manner of talons, claws, indefinitive blobbiness. Huge, bitty, flying, running, bludgeoning. Japan is rich in demons. But Kawanabe presents them in dressing-Cinderella colors.



Before the demons come there’s  first a scene of a winter family huddled around a brazier waiting for ghost stories. A mild pink cloud hovers toward the ceiling. Next we see an artist stretching in strange elongated posture to extinguish the last lamp. The pink cloud now droops directly above him, close to the  page bottom. (Both images above. I regret that the subtle pink clouds appear some degrees less telling here.)



Only now does the demon parade begin its romp.



The parade is a book, bound on the right, in which the postures on one page lead naturally to those on the next.



As with much of Kyōsai’s very best work, the luridness doesn’t come from any single source so much as the accumulation of fine, sickly details—like the pink, almost pornographic tongue dangling from the horse-man’s mouth. First these details creep up on you, then they overpower you.

detail from Kawanabe Kyōsai’s Night Parade of One Hundred Demons. Found on Public Domain Images; images courtesy the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Skeleton soldiers, a horse with the head of a man, and other monsters advance in the growing darkness.”


In the sweet tones of candied almonds.



A work of visual art.


Compare words. Words exist expressly for humans to signify to each other. Anyone who has diagrammed a gnarly sentence appreciates how grammar rules — like baseball rules — bring structure, stave off ambiguity. Not so in the visual arts. Imagine if English, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Bantu and Norwegian were used in one communication. To start — whose grammar would you use?



In art you can even throw in the kitchen sink. No one gets to cry out “That’s not what’s in the dictionary!” Art’s meaning can never be pinned down in a words. Even Moby Dick — because it’s words plus art.




Little truths are like artworks. They’re opinions, ways of seeing, possible but not ironclad Truths. Here’s another way to think about pink.







* Primaries are the familiar red, yellow, blue; tertiaries are  red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, red-violet.



They remind me of garden wind-chimes tuned to the moody blue notes. (Blue notes are used in many blues songs, in jazz, and in conventional popular songs with a “blue” feeling, such as Harold Arlen’s “Stormy Weather”.) Wikipedia




By on February 13th, 2016
Sloan Nota collage

Love Lost by Sloan Nota, collage. Copyright Sloan Nota. via artist’s collection.

I discovered both myself and my art while making impromptu collages. Paper, x-acto and glue, books and magazines. Excellent images on paper more beautiful than newsprint. Later I moved on to photomosaics — images from my camera butted up in a tight grid. The grid form pushed me to create images which flowed across the grid lines and stole your attention from them. If you savored my image you could not focus on the grid, and vice versa.

I was playing with those two artforms far in the back of my mind when ‘click’ I saw the fundamental difference between them. Fundamental. Collage lets you paste a smaller image on a background image. If a tractor besmirches your glorious landscape, paste a swan on top of it.

Sloan Nota art

The Persistence of Memory, by Sloan Nota. Photomosaic (built from original photos of the Lions in Trafalgar Square, London). art copyright Sloan Nota. via the artist’s personal collection.

Collage is a 3d artform. Yes its made from materials commonly thought of as 2d, but when one image can block another that is a 3d phenomenon. Its not available to you in a photomosaic which gives the artist nowhere to hide the nasty bits — the off-tune detail that will skew the meaning of your completed work, the deodorant ad, the moldy vegetable.


Horse and rider from Horemheb's tomb, ca 1325 BC. via pinterest.

Example of low relief.  Horse and rider from Horemheb’s tomb, ca 1325 BC. via pinterest.


'Grant',_bronze_sculpture, by William_Rudolf_O'Donovan; horse, _Thomas_Eakins. via,_bronze_sculptures_by_William_Rudolf_O%27Donovan_(men)_%26_Thomas_Eakins_(horses),_1893-1894,_Grand_Army_Plaza,_Brooklyn,_New_York_City.JPG

Example of high relief. ‘General Grant, ‘ bronze sculpture, by William_Rudolf_O’Donovan (Grant); Thomas Eakins (horse).  via


Tang Horse and Rider, Chinese ceramic. via collectingchineseceramics

Example of fully 3d art, art in the round.  Tang Horse and Rider, Chinese ceramic. via collectingchineseceramics.


Here’s a quick synopsis of my view of the Dimensions. Not a physicist’s understanding but an instructive play with semantics.

This sheet of business paper is the epitome of 2D, yes, width x length. But what if the paper’s for watercolorists? Then it has dimples, surface texture, a 3D aspect.  I think of this 2d/3d region as bas-space, a continuum that begins with flat flat 2d. That surface develops 3d qualities with texture, or that favorite detective story clue, the impression emphatic writing makes on the sheet below. Shade over that with a pencil and you can read what the evildoer wrote. 3d emerging from 2d again. Or complicating it.

In reliefs 3d can build incrementally and logically outward from mere etching to low relief to high relief — and now imagine a kind of duct-tape-removal sound as it pops away from its substrate. Sculpture in the round.

Linguistically rich turf. We throw around the terms 2d and 3d as if we knew them, as if we knew the difference between cabbages and plums. But when you think about origami, a rolled newspaper, a once-folded sheet with a minor faint crease — it can be rewarding to ponder the nuances.

And here I stop, a step away from topology, from tesseracts, Klein bottles, Mobius strips. Because to think about these you must plant your feet on very different turf.


All this ensues from my blogpost of February 4, Architectural Message of Chartres Cathedral. Architecture is usually spoken of as a 3D artform, rooms, domes, stairways. Volumes.  But humans are necessarily smaller scale. In order to interact with architecture you must approach it, meander in it, tire of its lengthy halls. Thus the 4th dimension time becomes part of what an architect must design for. You don’t route traffic to the throne room through the scullery.

Likewise grand public architecture taxes the architect with producing the right silhouette.  A fortress from a distance should look grim and intimidating, a palace must show luxe even far off on the horizon. Architects are employed to understand these messages and to deliver them.

Sculpture in the round also has this 4D aspect.  If you see the Nike of Samothrace from the front you may guess the backside but you have to walk around it to be sure the sculptor hasn’t add a tail.

Also last week I also spoke of barn-raising in 1800s America, how it took a community to accomplish the feat.  Then after the work came dancing and feasting, festivities where humans made merry together. And thus wove a deeper community.

Today as you drive across rural America many of these structures are slumped sideways, abandoned. Yet think of the planning and sweat that went into these massive buildings.  Interesting that hardly any houses which would have gone with the barns are seen from the road. Houses are flimsier. They didn’t tap such a widespread community in order to rise. A community now morphed and unrecognizable.