Negative Space

   In one view of artistic expression, the placing of a subject in the mist of "negative space" creates the feelings of loneliness, loss, emptiness and abandonment. The argument is that negative space __ space that is around a subject __ is one of the elements that contributes to coldness and desertion; even more so when that space is completely white or completely black.

   Granted, this view could be valid and have merit with some images where the subjects in the composition are positioned. Placing them below the horizon line for example would reinforce these feelings. However, a counter argument __ which is the argument I make __ is that negative space can also create feelings of openness, freedom and non entanglement. These are some positives created by the negative space in which I place my subjects.

   To compose a subject in the openness of space is to free and liberate it. Any negativity seen would be in the mind of the viewer not in what I am expressing. If there is in my work a negative in the negative space, perhaps it is the feeling of vulnerability . . .; for those who view vulnerability as a negative, of which I do not.

   There is also another objective in the use of this space, and that is creating timelessness. Often an absence of place __ and that is also negative space __ is an absence of time. Place and time bring limits in an image of which I want to avoid. The question of: What happened before, and what will happen after seldom occurs in the mind when viewing my work; I try to suspend time and place in my Still life images.


   This image, entitled “Siblings”, is an example of a composition employing negative space. I do like this image very much. It is a still life that has an elegance of its own, where the intended message of peace, quiet and that special and deep relationship brothers and sisters. The timelessness, again contributed by the negative space, is an attribute found in the piece. One could not tell if it was a gathering in the fifties, nineties or early two thousands.

   In the early history of Still life the subject would be placed on a table with fabric and a visible horizon line. The modern contribution of seamless paper, as used in table top photography, eliminates that line, and as a result the notion of place is reduced even more.  

   One may have in their mind that this image gives the feeling of coldness, which was alluded to in the opening paragraph of this post. I would not say that this feeling in some viewers is because of the white space. Pine trees and their combs are often depicted being surrounded by snow. The pines are icons for the winter, like fallen leaves are icons for the autumn. So, perhaps the icon of winter is what really contributes to the feeling of coldness; not the negative space in and of itself. We are all influenced by popular culture, where as my work is not restrained by it.

   Another point that adds to the elegance of this image, is that three __ often considered the number of balance __ is the number of combs I isolated in the composition. The way in which they grew together creates this natural balance. The limb __ as part of the composition __ joins the combs together creating a united subject. I believe that without the negative space in place that balance would be lost and the message deluded.

   What do you think? Tell me what are your thoughts about the concept of negative space in art in general, and its use here in this image. I am sure we can all benefit from your thoughts.