While researching the practitioners who actively engage themselves in using positive and negative space, Noma Bar is definitely one on my list. Many illustrators and designers who indulge in figure-ground phenomenon, such as M.C. Escher, Malika Farve and Olly Moss, have been directly or subconsciously practicing Gestalt laws in their artworks, Bar is no exception. However, Bar has his unique way to present his ideas. Firstly, he enjoys to convey ‘ambiguity’ message; Secondly, if compared with Malika Farve and Olly Moss who prefer to use sleeker graphics, Bar’s graphic appears bolder block of colours. In addition, many of his work deliver strong political message, this is probably due to where he was brought up — Israel.
I knew Bar better through a interview featured in The Guardian. Oliver Wainwright describes Bar’s work “has a rich range of precedents, with echoes of Russian constructivist propaganda and art-deco film posters.” Bar describes his personal graphic experience all began with Saddam Hussein’s face (Fig. 1). He blends in a radiation warning sign with the Iraq dictator’s uniform by bringing out a strong sense of contradiction and sarcasm. Among his portrait series, my favorite is his Portrait of George W Bush (Fig. 2). He conflates both image of Bush and the victim detained in Abu Ghraib prison. By applying the factor of direction (Wertheimer, 1923, p. 301), this minimalist illustration maximizes the level of sarcasm and sense of helplessness.
Bar published his second book titled as Negative Space in 2009. As referred the term, he simplifies the relevant complicated topics into cleaner, easy and inspiring forms. Many of his works featured embrace the principle of multistability, such as We Know Where You Are (Fig. 3), We See You But Not Your Crime (Fig. 4), This is The End (Fig. 5), Iraq Oil (Fig. 6), S.M.L. (Fig. 7), etc. By using lesser color and simplified contour shapes, he manages to unfold another perspective by using negative space. Perhaps the negative space is not only referring to his graphic mnemonic, but also revealing the side that we usually neglect.
Among Bar’s works, another of my favorite is Look Out (Fig. 8). You might see the dog’s silhouette at the first glimpse, but when taking another look you might find a cat at the negative space. The simple but well crafted graphic explains the estranged but close friend-enemy relationship in between the dog and cat.
Wertheimer, Max (1923) ‘Laws of Organization in Perceptual Forms’, Untersuchungen zur Lehre von der Gestalt 2 (4), 301-350,http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Wertheimer/Forms/forms.htm (visited 15/10/13)