NOTAN Paper Cut-outs (April 2013)

Notan is a term used in Japanese art, meaning ‘dark – light harmony’. Notan art is characterised by the interplay of light and dark, white and black, positive and negative, in which these opposites create a harmonious and balanced composition. In this paper cutting / collage project for 4-6 year olds, Notan is employed in its simplest form to create mirror-image compositions that demonstrate the concept of positive and negative.

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Each child was given an A4 sheet of black paper, one half of an A4 sheet of white paper (cut in half lengthways), a pair of scissors and a glue stick. They were asked to cut out a series of shapes from one of the long sides of their white paper, leaving a space between each one. I encouraged them to cut geometric shapes such as squares and rectangles as well as more organic, freestyle forms.


When they had finished cutting, I asked them to glue their strip of white paper on one side of the black paper, with the cut-out edge facing the middle. The children then put back the shapes they had cut-out, as if they were completing a jigsaw puzzle. I showed them how to flip each shape over, along the central axis, so that each ‘positive’ cut-out shape perfectly mirrored the ‘negative’ space that was left behind.


Despite this careful process, a few children ended up reversing or rotating a few of their shapes in the process of gluing them down, but this doesn’t detract from the striking effect of the abstract Notan art created by the children.


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