Figure/Ground: Jennifer Wenning

Is it a boating scene or is it an alligator? Found at ABDULZEEDO.

The primary image I selected to use is Tang Yau Hoong’s work from a blog from 2013 about negative space illustrations.  The background color is orange, but then there are competing images of a couple of people boating on a body of water (ocean/lake with hills in the background) or an alligator.  The couple in the boat is created by the negative orange space instead of being filled in black, like the rest of the reptile’s head.  In my opinion negative space is one of the more dynamic ways to create art because of how it creates the implication of objects and forms instead of relying on specific lines to create a focal point in images.

There is a relationship between “figure” and ground” and both aspects exist, and is necessary, within all types of art forms, from painting with a brush and paint, to creating a picture in Photoshop, or even stacking text and letters together.  The relationship between figure and ground gives specific shapes to what our eyes see, and how they see them (foreground/background, eye-catching/non-existent.)  While backgrounds can be unimportant, they often set the tone for the main object(s) of interest in an image, and can be dynamic in, and of itself.  The interaction of figure and ground often creates contrast between a form and it’s counterpart.

To create images, there are different ways to use figure and ground: a stable figure on ground that is easily legible from the background which is what photographs utilize when you focus on a person against the backdrop of say the ocean/beach.  A second way is through a reversible figure/ground relationship where two opposing elements of an image attract equal amounts of attention.  Negative space for instance is a way to really make it look like there are competing images within one form and it is multi-modal from digital art to tattoos.  A third way to create an image is through the ambiguous figure/ground relationship where in an image a viewer has to search for a focal point in the picture or there might not just be one thing for the eye to settle on.  There is another way artists create interesting figure/grounds through interwoven space, where a figure or specific form may not be centered but move and flow through the whole space the picture is made, where it is “active” and may not be the obvious focal point of an image.

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