Figure and Ground Examples

These are some figure and ground examples posted by my tutor, Barbara Brownies, in a group discussion in response to the topic of ‘ambiguity’ yesterday. However, I found these examples are useful to illustrate the figure-ground situation with a minimalist approach.

According to Oxford dictionary, ‘ambiguity’ refers to “the quality of being open to more than one interpretation.” In term of concept and visual expression, it offers a multiple interpretations. This idea of ‘ambiguity’ can be found in many art works that employ Gestalt laws.

Fig. 1. Tang Yau Hoong, Little Red Riding Hood, 2011.

Fig. 2. Tang Yau Hoong, Sky Guitar, 2011.

Let’s look at Fig. 1, the whole book itself, which includes Alice and wolf, should be perceived as figures, which stand out from a white background; however, the ‘tree trunks’ could also be perceived as grouped objects in accordance with factor of similarity and factor of proximity (Wertheimer, 1923, p. 301). In Fig. 2, clouds and jet planes are considered as figures when the blue color sky is served as ground; On the other hand, if we connect the blue sky together with the ‘strings’ and the hole, the blue sky turn out an guitar’s body. In addition, the six strings could be perceived as a group objects since they are sharing same orientation in accordance with factor of common fate (Wertheimer, 1923, p. 301).

Fig. 3. Brock Davis, How to Spot The Future (Invisible Bulb), 2011.

As for Fig. 3, the hand in fact is just a posture if it is interpreted partially. Nonetheless, by using law of similarity, we could categorize the hand and lightbulb’s electrical contact into one group, and the negative space therefore can be seen as interior space of the lightbulb. In general, the ‘ambiguity’ could be enhanced if we know how to manage figure-ground conditions.

Wertheimer, Max (1923) ‘Laws of Organization in Perceptual Forms’, Untersuchungen zur Lehre von der Gestalt 2 (4), 301-350, (visited 15/10/13)


3 responses to “Figure and Ground Examples

  1. Have you found any more of your own examples? It would be useful to show that you are able to take these ideas and apply them in your own resources search. You could also demonstrate that you understand how these exhibit ‘ambiguity’ by analyzing them a little bit.

    • Thanks for your comment, Barbara. Much appreciate.
      Yes, I have found some examples, and still in the progress to archive them into my blogs. And, I’ll make some analysis on these poster later.

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