Humans have a natural ability to see and recognize things. You see something and your brain immediately matches the image to a pattern you’ve seen before. You recognize the object. It’s 3D form. Comprehension is complete. Congratulations. You’ve recognized the object and completely missed the space – the invisible element of the image.
Space is only invisible until you see it. Once seen, it cannot be unseen. The void becomes a thing. It’s real. It’s tangible. It adds another level of comprehension to your experience of the object.
In this 2-dimensional example, the positive and negative spaces are flat. Aristotelian binary logic recognizes two options: white and non-white. Everything that is not positive is summarized as negative. There is form and non-form (aka space). That logic is fine if you’re trying to win an argument. In a 3-dimensional world, it’s a bit more complicated.
Think about the musical equivalent of this argument. There are notes and non-notes. All notes are part of the melody. Everything else is collectively defined as a “rest.” There is much more to music than notes and not notes. Imagine Beethoven’s 9th Symphony without the voids between notes. It would be a continuous stream of occasional repetitions with no punctuation, no cadence, no impact. The rest between notes provides valuable space to comprehend what you just heard, to anticipate what you will hear next, and the opportunity to appreciate the uniqueness of the moment. The frequency and duration of the rests are as important as the notes they separate. Many different notes create a melody. There are many different shapes and sizes to the voids.
Sculpture is a Melody of 3D Form Contained by Spaces.
The voids help you comprehend what you have seen, anticipate what you will see next and the opportunity to appreciate the uniqueness of the moment. Space itself has form. It has as much shape and dimension as the sculpture it surrounds. And, like the sculpture, the space changes shape from each new viewing angle. This void creates an invisible series of forms – a progression of connected experiences that supports and illuminates the visible form. Your attention moves from one space to another in a continuous dance of interest, visual stimulation, a sequence of discoveries.
Shifting your focus to give space the same amount of consideration as the form is a challenge. I recently gave a student the following exercise to help open his eyes. First I had him create an abstract form in clay and place it inside a container. Then I had him fill the container with plaster. When that was cured, I told him to remove the clay and observe the plaster form that remained. Form and space were reversed. The plaster turned invisible space into a tangible form. Once seen, space cannot be unseen. For a sculptor, seeing space as a solid form is a revelation worth pursuing.