Negative space

January 16, 2021
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Negative Space and Art

In visual art, the area outside or around the main object is called “negative space”.

For example, if one draws a deer and places the deer on an abstract background, the abstract background is termed “negative space”.

In art, negative space is important.

What should the negative space be made of? And how should the negative space be made? How should the negative space be made to seem?

Sometimes, making the right choices in the design and use of negative space makes all the difference in how the actual “subject” of the art is perceived.

The main object may be interpreted one way with one contextual frame or appear very differently with another. In that way, the negative space may be more critical than the way the artist renders the main object or main subject of the work itself.

These are important considerations. After all, different people may have different subjective interpretations of the negative space. And thus, people will have different interpretations of the object itself, if only due to their differences in their way of experiencing the very same negative space.

Negative Space and Human Interaction

Relating and interacting with another person generally has an object or a topic.

That subject or topic sits in 1) the negative space we create, 2) the negative space the other person creates, and 3) the negative space that the two people co-create together.

Think of the zone of interaction between two people as a certain kind of negative space – the kind created by those three sources.

But stop to consider that negative spaces are also evaluated. And as in art, the perception and evaluation of the negative space changes the evaluation of the main topic, object, or focal point of the interaction.

  • What does the other person we are with apprehend about our main subject – based on our intentional forming and handling of the negative space?

Endeavoring toward a more intentional rendering of our context, rather than our content, might be helpful in our interactions. Can we make the aesthetic evaluation of the negative space (in our daily interactions, and the counseling we provide), part of our recipe or menu of considerations in creating, forming, and holding negative space?

  • Whose evaluation of negative space is included or excluded, and why?

Negative Space and Addiction Counseling

In the science and art of addiction counseling, what is the negative space?

Is it the room? Is it the silence? Is it the unthought-known below our conscious mental operation? Or some combination of these?

In the practice and art of addiction counseling, what negative space do we create? What look and feel do we give the negative space that we bring about?

  • I wonder what an art therapist would say to improve my office. Or to improve my silence? Or to improve my holding of negative space?

What about the person undergoing addiction counseling? How do we apprehend and interpret the negative space that person provides? And how do they interpret ours? Are we each holding the best possible negative space for the sake of the process?

Negative Space, Addiction Illness, Addiction Recovery

Likewise, the one we assist and support, both forms and holds negative space during their illness, during their treatment or care, and during their recovery.

Someone experiencing addiction illness could form negative space during, and merely by, periods of abstinence – not just of use.

  • While their substance use is stopped or temporarily controlled, what environment are they rendering?
  • What quality of space do they live and bring to others?

While they partake of addiction counseling how does the person served form, have, and hold negative space?

  • Concerning the rendering of negative space, do we assist the person we serve with its concrete and aesthetic formation?
  • Recovery concerns more than only the object of self.  Recovery also concerns the creation and management of negative space.
  • What do we model with our behavior, and teach with our words, and our silence, concerning the formation of intentional and high-quality negative space? 

Negative Space as Cause and Effect

It is axiomatic that “Creativity is close to spirituality.” In that sense, what kind of negative space do we create, co-create, and hold?  What quality of negative space do we first render and then bring to others?  Is the negative space in the lives of those we touch improved by the impartation from the negative space we bring?  In what ways, and to what degree?    

What would an art therapist say about the outcomes found in the aesthetic dimension of the negative space in the lives of those we serve?

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