The element of shape
|Art Appreciation and Techniques (#ART100)|
|The visual language:|
|Overview | Introduction | Point | Line | Shape | Mass | Space | Value or tone | Color | Texture | Summary|
Ways of creating shapes
Referring back to Velazquez’s ‘Las Meninas’, it is fundamentally an arrangement of shapes; organic and hard-edged, light, dark and mid-toned, that solidifies the composition within the larger shape of the canvas. Looking at it this way, we can view any work of art, whether two- or three-dimensional, realistic, abstract or non-objective, in terms of shapes alone.
Positive-negative shapes and figure-ground relationships
Shapes animate figure-ground relationships. We visually determine positive shapes (the figure) and negative shapes (the ground). One way to understand this is to open your hand and spread your fingers apart. Your hand is the positive shape, and the space around it becomes the negative shape. You can also see this in the example of abstract shapes, but identifying positive and negative shapes can get tricky in a more complex composition. For instance, the four rectangles on the left have edges that touch each other, thus creating a solid white shape in the center. Sometimes shapes don't actually connect yet still give us an implied shape in the center. Which would you say are other positive shapes in the example of abstrat shapes? Remember that a positive shape is one that is distinguished from the background. In Las Meninas the figures become the positive shapes because they are lit dramatically and hold our attention against the dark background. What about the dark figure standing in the doorway? Here the dark shape becomes the positive one, surrounded by a white background. Our eyes always return to this figure as an anchor to the painting’s entire composition. In three dimensions, positive shapes are those that make up the actual work.The negative shapes are the empty spaces around, and sometimes permeating through the work itself. The Laocoön Group is a good example of this. A modern work that uses shapes to a dramatic effect is Alberto Giacometti’s Reclining Woman Who Dreams from 1929. In an abstract style the artist weaves positive and negative shapes together, the result is a dreamy, floating sensation radiating from the sculpture.