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13th Mar 2010Posted in: Latest News Comments Off on Figure-Ground Inversion
Figure-Ground Inversion
We separate figures (forms) from the space, color, or patterns that surround them (ground,or background). People are accustomed to seeing the background as passive and unimportant in relation to a dominant subject. Yet visual artists become attuned to the spaces around and between elements, discovering their power to become active forms in their own right. Graphic Design, The New Basics. Baltimore:


Figurative art is a fundamental component of my work, and my aim is to create a new way that we see the figure. We as human beings end up in our surroundings by choice or happenstance. Our surroundings dictate our behavior and influence our senses.  I incorporate the model’s surroundings within his or her body and generate a different figure. My work and research express a contemporary view of the human figure through the use of the figure-ground inversion. Figurative art has a long tradition in Art History. I am bringing art up to date in a screen-saturated age, where figure and ground collapse by our constant engagement with figures in and on screens. I am engaging with figure-ground relationships and focusing on figural subjects to investigate the contemporary aspect of the concept of the figure in the world today. We are browsing digital media with all these windows open, so I am exploring “a way of seeing” everyday life. In my research, I employ modern technology at the beginning, then switch to classical painting techniques for my figure-ground inversion.

By combining the image of the human figure with different types of visual manipulations, I investigate how intimately the figure and the ground can be intertwined. This figure-ground inversion unifies my view of humankind with the urban cityscape, and landscape as a genre. The second option is a double figure-ground inversion; this idea joins two shapes/people, creatures, or objects with the ground. By combining the figure with the elements of the ground, the background image becomes part of the foreground image. According to Museum Curator Ellen Lupton and Design Professor Jennifer Phillips, “A stable figure/ground relationship exists when a form or figure stands clearly apart from its background. Most photography functions according to this principle, where an obvious subject is featured within a setting.”[1] By overlapping multiple objects (human and insect), it challenges our desire to make a single focal point. The viewers try to make sense of what they are looking at because the merged anatomy creates a new ambiance of the figure.

 [1] Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips, Graphic Design, The New Basics (New York, Baltimore: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008-2015), 106.

Michael Longhofer M.F.A.



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