Figure/Ground:Thomas Chiou

Figure/Ground Ambiguity is just as the name sound its ambiguous. It can be commonly described as a blurred figure. Figure/ground ambiguity exits when it can’t determine what is ground or figure. The Figure & Ground is also called the Gestalt Principle. Figure is any shape that can be distinguished differently from the background. The background that is around the shape or figure is the ground. The alternate terms would be positive and negative space. The most simple way to explain it is with black and white squares. With a white canvas background, and if there are black squares in the canvas. The black squares are the “figures”, and the white background is the “Ground”. The figure is the main subject of the artwork, and the ground the setting for the main subject. The figure/ground ambiguity is when the black squares and the white background are blurred, and difficult to tell them apart. The relationship between the two can enhance or detract from each other, creating a contrast. However, the figure/ground ambiguity give the artwork a mysterious element. The most recognized example of the Figure/Ground ambiguity is the Rubin’s vase. The perception of the vase/face all depends on the which the direction the border of the white and the black. It can create a confusion, that one image can be two things at once. The shape of the white shows the vase, but the border of the black shows the two faces. The human brain is an interesting part of our body, it can mislead us into looking at the same object but have two completely different perception. The white of the vase and the two-black face can both be the figure, and other can be the ground, they need each other to exist, to create the ambiguity.

vase face

Edgar Rubin’s vase/face from Rubin Vase Wikipedia 

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