Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Negative Space surrounding Art Quilts

I just hung a piece at home over the weekend (that was part of my recent exhibit). What became clear is that the piece needs more blank wall space around it than it has. Its power and intensity needs the dispersion/rest area (or negative space) that a wall provides. At the exhibit, this piece had a great deal of wall space and, in fact, fit quite well. But in its location at home, it almost looks overpowering, even though the wall is of sufficient size to provide a border for the piece (a minimum of 1' of wall space on each side).

What this means to me is that one must be conscious of the intangible quality of the 'spirit of a piece' in order to find the most suitable display area(s).

I remember a friend, after viewing some of my works, saying that they needed 'room to breathe'. The message was that each of them needed to be viewed with more space surrounding them because their energy extended beyond their binding.

How does a person determine whether a piece needs room to breathe? I think of it as a non-visual sensation perceived visually. One first looks at a piece. Then one answers the question of, "Does it 'feel' cramped or 'expansive' where installed?". If it is perceived as cramped, a piece needs more wall space (providing the wall is a neutral color). If the wall space is an unusual color, the need for additional space will depend on the wall color itself. If the piece feels expansive in its display location, it probably has sufficient room.

We don't generally make works by giving thought to the display space needs while a piece is evolving. So, how does one deal with this element? I think it is up to the artist to assess this quality after a piece is completed and work to address and accommodate it in exhibit venues.

But what about clients? Does the negative space needed to view an art work vary depending on the person who is perceiving that piece of art? Perhaps.

If you go to a museum or gallery and look at works of art, they are generally displayed at eye level with a routine distance between pieces on display. When there are too many pieces in one location (e.g. high ceilings so two or more works are hung on top of each other), the discernment of the qualities of an individual work are made more difficult. The energies of each piece may be bleeding into one another creating a very different impression of the 'art' that has been viewed.

Negative space is as important for a piece as the design and execution of the work of art itself (whether quilt, painting, photograph, etc.). It is in that space that a piece lives and communicates. It breathes through that space and consequently contributes life-affirming qualities beyond that 2D space.


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