Monday, December 30, 2013

Figure-Ground and Art

English: A white cup or two black faces?
English: A white cup or two black faces? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The gestalt notion "figure-ground phenomenon" refers to the characteristic organization of perception into a figure that 'stands out' against an undifferentiated background. What is figural at any one moment depends on patterns of sensory stimulation and on the momentary interests of the perceiver. Figure-ground relationship is an important element of the way we organise reality in our awareness, including works of art. Poets may rely on our habitual figure-ground organisations in extra-linguistic reality to exploit our flexibility in shifting attention from one aspect to another so as to achieve certain poetic effects by inducing us to reverse the habitual figure-ground relationships. This flexibility has precedent in music and the visual arts. Works by Escher, Mozart, Beethoven, Dickinson, Sidney, Shelley and Beckett are examined.