The element of art
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SPACE. The Element of Art:. SPACE.

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The element of art

SPACE

The Element of Art:


Space

SPACE

  • Real space is three-dimensional. Space in a work of art refers to a feeling of depth or three dimensions. It can also refer to the artist's use of the area within the picture plane. The area around the primary objects in a work of art is known as negative space, while the space occupied by the primary objects is known as positive space.


Example positive and negative space

The relationship of positive to negative space can greatly affect the impact of a work of art. In this drawing, the man and his shadow occupy the positive space, while the white space surrounding him is the negative space. The disproportionate amount of negative space accentuates the figure's vulnerability and isolation.

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes. “He Can No Longer at the Age of 98”, c. 1819–1823. Brush and india ink wash, 9 3/16 x 5 11/16 in. J. Paul Getty Museum.

Example:Positive and negative space


Example three dimensional space

Pieter Jansz. Saenredam. Dutch, November 1634. Pen and brown ink and watercolor, stylus incising throughout; verso rubbed with black chalk for transfer to panel. 14 13/16 x 15 7/16 in. J. Paul Getty Museum.

The perfect illusion of three-dimensional space in a two-dimensional work of art is something that many artists, such as this one, labored to achieve. The illusion of space is achieved through perspective drawing techniques and shading.

Example:Three-dimensional space


How artists use space

Artists overlap things to create the illusion of space. As in the real world, those things nearest to us can partially overlap objects that are farther away.

The Antimenes Painter Black-figured Hydriac. 530 B.C. Slip-glazed earthenware The Minneapolis Institute of Arts The John R. Van Derlip Fund

How artists use space…


How artists use space1

The Antimenes Painter detail of Black-figured Hydriac. 530 B.C. Slip-glazed earthenware The Minneapolis Institute of Arts The John R. Van Derlip Fund

The artist has shown horses and reins overlapping each other, indicating which horses are nearest to us and which are farthest away, or behind other horses.

How artists use space…


How artists use space2

This sculpture uses a series of overlapping shapes to create a sense of space.

Robert Smithson Leaning Strata1968 Aluminum, paint Walker Art Center Donation of Virginia Dwan

How artists use space…


How artists use space3

Ben Shahn Italian Landscape1943-1944 Tempera on paper Walker Art Center Gift of the T. B. Walker Foundation, Gilbert M. Walker Fund

An artist can use the relative size of objects to create the illusion of space in a two-dimensional work. Things appear to be smaller the farther away they are from us. The three women in this painting appear closer to us because they are larger than the three men carrying the coffin in the background.

How artists use space…


How artists use space4

This artist plays with our notion of space by depicting small objects such as a spoon and cherry as surprisingly large. The sailboat and runner are dwarfed by the gigantic spoon and cherry, a reversal of the relative sizes we would usually expect when we see these familiar objects. The relationship of things to each other creates a sense of scale.

Claes Oldenburg View of Spoonbridge and Cherry, with Sailboat and Running Man1988 Pastel, paper collage on paper Walker Art Center Acquired in conjunction with the commissioning of Spoonbridge and Cherry for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

How artists use space…


How artists use space5

Abraham Bloemaert Shepherd Boy Pointing at Tobias and the Angelc. 1625-1630 Oil on canvas The Minneapolis Institute of Arts The Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund

We understand the shepherd boy to be closer to us because he is larger than the figures in the background.

How artists use space…


How artists use space6

Artists use relative position on the picture plane to create the illusion of space. The higher up the objects are placed in the picture, the farther away we assume them to be. Objects placed lower in the picture appear nearer to us. We understand that the chairs in the lower part of this drawing are closer to us than the chairs that are higher up in the picture.

Michele Zalophany The Castleton1987 Pastel, charcoal, on paper mounted on canvas Walker Art Center Walker Special Purchase Fund, Jerome Foundation Purchase Fund for Emerging Artists

How artists use space…


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