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Embracing the void: The power of negative spaces in art

Negative spaces

Why address these negative spaces? 

John Baldessari once said,“Instead of looking at things, look in between them.”

Image source: Marian Goodman Gallery 

In the realm of art, the canvas is a playground for creativity and innovative expression. Every stroke holds significance in a painting. However, sometimes it is the empty spaces within the art that speak louder than the art itself. These voids are called negative spaces, which help in creating an impact among the audience. It is not merely an absence of colour, it compliments the art to tell a final, put together story. 

It contributes to a realm that transcends mere strokes of a brush and takes the viewers on an artistic journey. Mixed with one’s own imagination and creative conscience, the negative spaces of a painting enhance the art. It is a mystery that craves to remain so, not wanting to be filled or “resolved” by an external party. 

If you’re an aspiring artist wanting to divert from your mainstream style, prepare to be opened to a whole new world of art! 

Embracing the negative spaces 

Image source: Adorama

Negative spaces are the areas around and in between the subjects of the picture. These are often overlooked by the ordinary man but are fundamental to the overall aesthetic. Our natural instinct is to focus solely on the art itself, the true artist harnesses the power of contrast and balance. 

To begin with, it is quite interesting to witness the paintings of the artists who practise incorporating negative spaces. Their interplay of substance and emptiness provides a space for visualisation. It is a sneak peak into the mind of the artist as well as a projection of our own. What we think is how our art turns out to be. 

Image source: Indian art ideas 

In this way, the negative space becomes a focal aspect of the painting, which can be used as a template for other artists. It surpasses impressionism and revolves around the sphere of realism. The art is defined by the absence rather than the presence of colour. Imagination is given priority over definition, which is the trend adopted by new age artists. 

Image source: Fine Art tutorials 

Striking features on negative spaces

One of the most striking aspects of these negative spaces is the innate ability to evoke emotion and curiosity. Creating the feeling of a haunting stillness in the room filled with observers is something worth analysing. A vast untouched area of sky or water has never been so inspiring in reality as it looks in a virtual landscape. 

These voids invite the viewer into a parallel world to pause and contemplate the silence within the art work. Negative spaces have this remarkable capacity to convey a range of moods and emotions, from tranquillity to uneasiness. Simply through the absence or presence of substance, the depth and meaning of the artwork changes, which personally, is fascinating! 

Furthermore, these negative spaces play a pivotal role in defining the position and role of the objects within a painting composition. The placement of an object and its surrounding space establishes a certain flow and rhythm. For instance, the message of the painter varies if the character is looking directly at the viewer or elsewhere in the frame.

Image source: Fine Art tutorials 

Whether the image is abstract or personalised also creates impact differently. The negative spaces not only draws attention to the focal point of the artwork but also guides the viewer’s gaze, hence initiating a visual conversation and connection with its audience. To put it concisely, these spaces encourage engagement from the viewer. 

The mind tries to make sense of what it sees. In the absence of colour and definition, it has room for imagination and perception. This is the beauty of an artwork, no two people see the same story! It almost feels like a dialogue between the viewer and the artist, transcending physical and geographic boundaries. 

Click here to know more about how negative spaces are enhanced within the art. 

On the flipside

Image source: Adobe

These negative spaces in contemporary art could be misunderstood. The downside to this style of painting is the assumption that all its viewers are artistically intelligent and curious. The layman looking at these masterpieces will often criticise them for these intentional negative spaces. It may make the artwork feel unfinished and fail to engage the audience on an emotional and deeper level. 

Additionally, it could lead to confusion and a lack of visual balance when executed poorly. The observer could struggle in deciphering the message or moral lesson imparted by the painting. Inaccurate attention to the important details can disrupt the overall harmony that the artist was trying to achieve through their work. 

Image source:  Fine Art tutorials

To wrap it up

The inclusion of negative spaces in artwork is not simply a matter of aesthetics, but a testament to the power of restraint. By embracing the void, artists harness the full spectrum of visual language, from the tangible to the intangible. They invite us to pause, reflect and find meaning in the unspoken. After all, we need a reminder that sometimes, it is what is not said that speaks the loudest! 

To learn more about traditional and contemporary art, download the Rooftop app from Google Play or App Store to stay updated on our upcoming art events and workshops. Stay tuned to rooftop blogs and follow us on @rooftop_app

By Freya Bulsara

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