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# Figure Ground Reversal

Implied Line, Counter Change, Positive/Negative Space and other examples of how Shape effects Space.
by

## Deb Joseph

on 23 September 2013

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#### Transcript of Figure Ground Reversal

We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel;
But it is on the space where there is nothing that the utility of the wheel depends.
We turn clay to make a vessel;
But it is on the space where there is nothing that the utility of the vessel depends.
We pierce doors and windows to make a house;
and it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the utility of the house depends.
Therefore, just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the utility of what is not.

--Lao Tse
Figure Ground Reversal
Shape effects Space
Space effects Shape

Positive and
Negative Space
define the shapes in this illustration.
A visual illusion where perception alternates between two possibilities. A pair of shapes, either of which taken alone would be seen as an object of some kind, share a common border-line. What happens is that, when joined, each shape competes with the other. One is at first relegated to mere background and is hardly seen, while the other dominates as an object. Then the reverse happens: the object fades perceptually away to become for a time mere background in its turn.
FIGURE-GROUND REVERSAL
We begin with a classic
Figure Ground Reversal Exercise.
The CandleStick assignment focuses on Figure Ground Reversal.
Positive + Negative space.
Implied Line.
Contrast and
Reflected Symmetry.
Positive and
Negative Space
are equally Important.

This pattern design wouldn’t exist without either.
It is also a visual pun.
The following image illustrates both
Implied Line AND Figure Ground Reversal.
Implied Line
+
Figure Ground Reversal
The Catch, also by Vasarely, illustrates how one image is totally dependent upon another for it to exist.

Therefore, the positive and negative images or Shapes are equally important.
Implied Line
Vasarely created a series of Zebra images. This is another example of Implied Line.

This image is also in our room. Have you see it?
Implied Line
The Implied Line isn’t a “drawn” line in the typical sense.

It is the edge of two contrasting shapes.

At right we see Implied Lines throughout this work by Victor Vasarely.
Implied Line
This image at right is a classic example of Figure Ground Reversal.

It is fairly easy to see the two images.

The edge of the face is also the edge of the chalice. This edge is called an Implied Line.
Figure Ground Reversal
Sometimes the images are more difficult to see.

Can you see two images in this example?
Figure Ground Reversal
A Figure Ground Reversal image is often two pictures.

Do two pictures emerge for you at right?
Figure Ground Reversal
When Black and White squares are offset they can become an Optical Illusion.

Are these Horizontal Rows Straight or Tapered?
Optical
Illusions
Shape effects Space.
Our Shape Unit Explores…
Figure Ground Reversal.
Positive + Negative space.
Implied Line.
Contrast.
Symmetry.
Reflected Symmetry.
The Implied Line isn’t a “drawn” in this work by Vasarely either.

Again it is the edge of two contrasting shapes.

The contrasted shapes are offset.

Here we don’t know where one Zebra ends and the other begins.
Implied Line
trowel |ˈtrouəl| noun
1 a small handheld tool with a flat, pointed blade, used to apply and spread mortar or plaster.
2 a small handheld tool with a curved scoop for lifting plants or earth.
Our eyes flick from the positive shape to the negative space and back again.

This back and forth is called Figure/Ground
Reversal.

Do you see the Trowel?
Space effects Shape.
Sometimes the space
surrounding the shape is something else.

At times,
Shape and Space appear to switch places.

Do you see a laughing man? Do you see anything else?
Space effects Shape.
Sometimes lines and
Shapes can play tricks with our perception.

Shape can border space and unveil something to us that isn’t really there…

Or is it?

Do you see the White
Triangle?
What do you see?
Explain what you see?
This one is tricky; as in a trick question. Those rows ARE STRAIGHT. Very surprising isn't it? Just the offset placement of the black and white squares creates this illusion!
Explain what two images you see.
Does it appear brighter or duller?
What do you think this poem means?
Explain - what is going on here?
Our hand-drawn "shape-warp"
was an example of this.
We will revisit that notion again and again. The positive and negative space in design, layout or a work of art are equally important.
Full transcript