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.
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.