Sequence viewing > Aesthetics Index - Resource - © Lloyd Godman

Figure Ground relationships

A term which is often used is figure and ground.

Robert Plant 1972 Western springs Auckland

In the simplest form this is a single figure or an object against a plain background. If the background is darker and the figure lighter the figure comes forward creating an image with visual impact.



When we use the term figure, it does not mean human figure, - it might also mean an object or even an abstract shape -

Here we see the flower as the figure against a black background - there is no confusion between what is the background and what is the figure -

Notice how the trees (the figures) are actually darker than the background.
In this image the roof line of the Sydney opera house becomes the figure against the blue sky - notice in this example how the figure extends up the the edge of the frame and eludes to the visual sensation that the roof extends outside the frame.
In this image the design is more complex - the figure becomes the industrial tower and the the car - while the ground becomes the forest and the sky -


Here we see the figures as silhouettes against the lighter ocean.


In this image the figure ground relationship is more complex - the crane and the background with the buildings tend to blend together making which makes an interesting play from one to the other. Look how the green links the two areas.


In this image the complexity of bikes tends to combine and become two figures - one on the left and one on the right - this works within the gestalt theory of similarity -

In this image, the figure and the ground are more unified in the composition which tends to limit the sense of depth and perspective.




I used a clear figure ground relationship in an obvious way for the im plant - Tallandsia Tableau Vivant work - I placed the three figures - the mannequin, the skeleton and the human figure against a black background.


In the en light en projection installation the shadows of the bromeliad plants fall as dark figures on a lighter ground.


In the When Light Turns to Dust project, where the marks on the discarded negatives are abstract dust marks the figure ground relationship becomes confused - the viewer can either see dark figures on a white ground or visa vera.

So in this image we see the mechanic sculptures against a complicated background where they are more difficult to distinguish. The figure ground relationship is complex.

Where as in this image they sit as silhouettes against the ground of the sky and clearly stand out as the figure.


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