|Thesis | The World of Teruo Sato |Technique|4-1-B Figure and Ground

  Figure and Ground


   We quickly mentioned about the importance of figure and ground in the introduction of integrated picture in the work part, in the explanation of the composition element using the analysis of "The Sleeping People at the Underground Passage" in the person part, and in the explanation of chroma and density of a line in this technique part. However, it is in the actual creation of a picture that the importance of these two is accentuated. Therefore, below, we give a sketch on the role of these two in the actual creation of a picture.

Limitation of the Ground

   Figure and ground refer to the zones on the canvas that the painter creates in order to guide the viewer in the light of the theme. This is made in the above-mentioned Color Surface. Put differently, this is an application of the Color Surface concept.
   On the drawing surface, the painter determines a certain Color Surface as figure. When a Color Surface that serves as figure is drawn, the rest of the area on the drawing surface becomes another Color Surface that surrounds the figure. This Color Surface is none other than the ground. The ground makes the figure stand out and it plays the role of instructing comprehensively the environment in which the figure was placed.
   When the figure is determined, the ground is automatically specified without any special action. We name this the "Automatic Specification of the Ground." If the automatically specified ground is too wide, another narrower ground can be created by establishing a new Color Surface that surrounds the figure determined previously. We will call this the "Limitation of the Ground".
   The ground that was created by this limitation further instructs in detail the environment of the original figure. Also, the limited ground is not specified automatically and needs an active act of drawing. In the meanwhile, the original wide ground that surrounds the figure and the limited ground still continues to exist, and is once again automatically specified by the limited ground. This we will call "Automatic Re-specification of the Ground".
   If we see from the standpoint of the re-specified ground, we see that the limited ground becomes its figure. It means that, the limited ground has also a nature of figure, and hence here we find a two-sided nature. Similarly, whenever a limitation of the ground happens, the previous ground is re-specified accordingly, which can continue repeatedly. This specification is never over until the last. Also, the limited ground becomes a multi-sided figure in relation to the wider ground outside of it. In this way, figure and ground interlaces mutually.
   If two figures are placed next to each other, each becomes an independent figure and never one will become the ground of the other. We call this the "Juxtaposition of the Figure". If the juxtaposition of the figure happens consecutively, the juxtaposed figure automatically re-specifies the same ground. The ground continues to be a simple ground just as it was. The painter can put a number of juxtaposed figures together and determine it as one single figure. We will call this way of creating a new figure the "Concentration of the Figure". As opposed to the concentrated figure, we call the original one a "Dismembered Figure".

Juxtaposition of the Figure Concentrated&Dismembered Figure

Synthetic Figure

   When both concentrated and dismembered figures are equally given the nature of figure, the whole concentrated figure is specifically called "Masse," and becomes an important drawing unit in the picture. When the concentrated figure is given the nature of figure more strongly compared to the dismembered figure, this is specifically called a "Synthetic Figure".
   Taking the example of a vase of floor to explain in concrete words, each individual flower constitutes a figure and all the flowers together, too, constitute a figure. In this case, the individual flowers are dismembered figures, and the flower as a whole in the vase is a concentrated figure. Also, in a picture where the model is wearing peculiar clothes, the clothes constitute a dismembered figure whereas the model represents a synthetic figure.
   There are three forms of arrangement of figure and ground according to their mutual relationship. First is the case where a number of small figures are arranged in one ground. With the focus on the figure, we name this way of arrangement "Pattern". Next is the case in which several big figures are placed in one ground, with the ground filling in the space among the figures. Focusing on the ground, we name this arrangement "Room".
   Lastly, similar to the dismembered figure above mentioned, we have a case in which a number of small figures get together to make one big figure. Here, if the number of figures reaches a considerable amount, we can call this state "Lump". Thus, the arrangement of figure and ground can be classified into "Pattern," "Room" and "Lump" according to the state of the set of figures.

Pattern Room
Lump Sato's Lump

   In most cases, the object which becomes the theme of the picture is either a concentrated figure or a synthetic figure. If it is painted in a literal way, it will contain many dismembered figures, usually becoming a "Lump".

   After the figures were drawn one after another with repeated automatic re-specification, there will be a part of the ground that is left until the last: we name this the "Window" of the ground. This "Window" always becomes the setting of the picture. But the setting does not stay only within the "Window" and usually expands outside of it.

Window Window
Sato's Window

   When the setting expands from the "Window" and involves some supplementary figures adorning itself, there a "Pattern" is made. Also, sometimes it can expand further to reach the object as the theme. In such a case, it penetrates into the supplementary figure near the theme object, forming a "Room".
   If we divide the drawing surface based on the object and the setting, which are the objective elements of composition, the four parts are: pure object part, object leading part, setting leading part and pure setting part. Then, if we relate them to the figure-ground relationship, we have "Lump," "Room," "Pattern" and "Window," respectively.
   In the actual picture, all or a part of these are drawn. We have shown here the strict relationship between object and setting, which are the objective element of composition, and figure and ground, which realize the intention of the drawing act.
   When there is a change in the Color Surface, sometimes the figure and the ground changes as well. For example, when a new Color Surface is divided within another one, the new one becomes a figure and the original one a ground. Also, when more than one Color Surface that surrounds another one is united or fused into a single one, these transformed Color Surfaces becomes a ground, and the one that is surrounded by it becomes a figure.
   We will call such a transformation of a Color Surface into a figure "Figurization", and the transformation into a ground "Groundization". One picture technique always corresponds to one transformation of the Color Surface. This means that, sometimes a picture technique corresponds to "Figurization" or to "Groundization".
   In this case, the purpose of using such a technique is the creation or arrangement of figure and ground that is aimed at by "Figurization" or "Groundization". Therefore, in this case, a technique should be understood in terms of what are the figure and the ground that it is aiming at. Since figure is none other than a Color Surface that the painter is trying to make the viewer specifically conscious of, it constitutes the very purpose of a technique.
   What we have shown above is how figure and ground relate to each other inside the object and the setting. In the actual act of drawing, in many cases, the painter's paintbrush will start working from the figure. Then, it is expected that a Color Surface is allocated for the "Window" in the ground, which is left until the last, concluding the picture. Therefore, it is useful to classify the act of drawing according to how important is the figure drawn.
   First, an object that expresses the theme of the picture is drawn. This object is either a "Concentrated Figure" or a "Synthetic Figure". Since it draws the attention of the viewers the most, it might often be dismembered into details to become a "Lump". We call the figure that shows this main object "Primary Figure".
   Next, an object(s) that reinforces the main object is drawn. This object(s), too, is either a "Concentrated Figure" and/or a "Synthetic Figure" in most cases. However, since it exists only to call the attention of the viewer to the main object, in many cases it is unlikely that it will become a "Lump." We call this subordinate figure "Secondary Figure".
   In the next step, decorative figures are drawn in some parts of the setting in order to mitigate its simplicity. (For instance, stars in a dark sky) This might often be a case for a "Pattern" use. Sometimes, like a stand or a wall that holds the object, there are figures that, while being an object, have a strong role of setting.
   Because these figures do not draw the attention of the viewer so much, they are rarely pictured as a "Concentrated Figure" or a "Synthetic Figure." Rather, they might often be a single Color Surface. We call such a figure that is a part of the setting "Third Figure".
   Lastly, in order to draw the attention of the viewer to the main object, a figure that guides the course of vision is drawn in a point very close to it. In most of the cases, it is drawn with a single Color Surface, and seldom is a "Concentrated Figure" or a "Synthetic Figure" used. We name such a figure that guides the attention "Subsidiary Figure".
   The above cited "Primary Figure," "Secondary Figure," "Third Figure" and "Subsidiary Figure" are all the figures that can be drawn in a work. To draw a picture is equivalent to drawing these figures. In a completed picture, it might be that never all of these figures are drawn, but one or more of them will be always present.

Primary Figure Secondary Figure
Third Figure Subsidiary Figure

   When these figures are drawn, and as the result of their automatic re-specification, the "Window" that is left becomes a single Color Surface, the picture is complete. The Color Surface of the "Window" often becomes a "Simple Color Surface" but it is also possible that it is a "Fusing Color Surface". However, in some works, figures can fill up the entire drawing surface and it might happen that no "Window" is left. In this case, the work is concluded when all the figures that the painter had planned are drawn. But even in such cases, there may be figures that play a role similar to that of "Window".
   Now it can be easily understood that, from the viewpoint of the objective element of composition, "Primary Figure" and "Secondary Figure" compose the object, "Third Figure" and "Window" compose the setting, and "Subsidiary Figure" links the object to the setting.
   We argued above about the basic concepts that explain particular acts and processes in which a painter actually draws a picture using the medium. Based on this understanding, we move on to the last step of analyzing the technical structure of Sato's picture.

                                         \ Written, summarized and translated by Taketoshi Murayama@\                                                      \ Original translation is rewritten by Chigusa Tanzawa \

This text must not be translated into any other languages without author's permission.

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