SAC Gallery | From Hokusai to three
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From Hokusai to three

The iconic scene of the massive ocean wave accompanies by Mountain Fuji on the far back, dizziness occurs once spotted narrow boat with Japanese fishermen on board, this is probably how to best describe ‘The Great Wave’ by Katsushika Hokusai.


Katsushika Hokusai, The Great Wave, 1831 circa (Picture from:


Hokusai, as experimental artist who always seek new technique to outgrow his creation off the edge had left two greatest inventions for manga world which I would like to mention in this article through the exhibition “three is the magic number 15: Hypersweet” by a Japanese emerging artist group called ‘three’ at Subhashok The Arts Centre. Firstly, he picked up the word ‘manga’ for the first time to depict this criterion of work even though we all must admit that the definition of manga has changed quite a lot. Secondly, what is greater than his greatest wave was that the resonant that his creation makes his audiences ‘feel’ along each element in the picture. The feeling dizzy from looking at ‘The Great Wave’, for instance. This freeze-frame technique then became the destination which allow manga to animate nowadays.

The complication of manga started back in 1200s, there appeared to have evidence of paper scroll depict animal with human actions along with speech in bubbles. The love relation of Japanese to prints and illustration also had its downward. The popularity or print faced its sharp drop with the arrival of modern comic along with the great depression and regression after world war effected the art and culture section. The survival of manga regards those who truly support the artists alongside. We also stumbled to tons of photographsof Edo (an old name of Tokyo) that makes us believe that was very ordinary for people in Edo to go around the cornerand shop for prints and illustration.


Part one of three sections of the Choju-Jinbutsu-Giga emaki (Kou kan), Courtesy of the Suntory Museum of Art (Gleason n.d.).


Little did we know that from the high-demand prints of Hokusai to low budget production comic books during the post-war period or even manga figures nowadays, the linear of continuity of manga reflects that one of many important dynamics that played big role in saving manga is its reasonable price for such quality works. This then one day, in hundreds of year later, paid back the supporters that no one could ever predict that would worth a million. Maybe this is the explanation to those who wait for the release of next chapter of their favorite manga for so long.

One important trait of manga and its long history is that they have captured contemporary social narrative upon each period in the most natural method. Each character, atmosphere and stories are not only telling the story the artist had invented. Manga reflects deeper into people as they capsulate behavior and taste of people of the time. The exhibition “three is a magic number 15: Hypersweet” by three was considered a great example of those contemporary viewpoint. The work of three aligns with Japanese contemporary culture by not only hold the position of being a part of manga culture but also as observer who understand the whole context through roughly. Janepraphaphan mentioned that they intended to put melty soft manga figures in the simplest geometric form by means of mass production in respond to incredibly high demand as well as how specific liker turn into normalness.


963.3g, 2019, Figure(PVC resin), Wood, PVC and Aluminum, 30.5 x 2.9 x 22 cm


From the ancient paper scrolls, stage backdrop paintings, the never-ending comics and anime or even movies, we could analyst that there were always attempt in making the flat manga into a more realistic visuality. They tended to add more dimension with whatever technique available during the period to make sure it linked what people are seeing to reality.  On the other hand, three’s working process mentioned the revolution of Japanese manga backward. They critiqued the whole linear of manga history by squeezed up manga figured into one solid objects with various form but rather simple geometric or new form of manga-like characters, which mostly demolish depth dimension as well as the individuality of each piece. In fact, this help revealing another hidden aspect of history, its surrounding condition of which to be reviewed again in today context. The works displayed in the exhibition remind us to rethink the history of manga and its outcome today. three, as an emerging artist group, reignited the superflat movement. They questioned our position upon humanity timeline where we sometime too busy struggling in our history and development.


Story by: Ploy Charoenpol

Graphic Designer: Saruda Suansa-ard




Chol Janepraphaphan. 2020. “three is a magic number 15: Hypersweet.” Bangkok: Subhashok The Arts Centre, 26 March.

Clark, Tim. 2019. May 10. Accessed April 15, 2020.

Gleason, Alan. n.d. artscape Japan. Accessed April 22, 2020.

Kendzulak, Susan. 2013. Art Radar Journal.Novermber 10. Accessed April 22, 2020.

Ryōko Matsuba, Alfred Haft. 2018. December 5. Accessed April 14, 2020.