away to the background and the two faces become predominant. It is interesting to note that our perception does not allow us to see both images at the same time.
Fig.20 Tomma Abts, Zerke 2015
This painting above right is a good example of figure and ground. The shape projects forwards and out of the picture plane and then recedes back, confusing and without logic.
Symmetry and order
The design should be balanced and complete or the eye will not rest while trying to perceive the whole picture. It’s our nature to want organise chaos. We seek balance in our compositions.
This untitled painting above by Abts starts with symmetry and order, it runs smoothly from left to right with a distinct pattern. As your eye follows each line down the pattern is suddenly lost. A jumble of shapes and colours break free, individual and perplexing.
Common fate (aka Synchrony).
Elements that move together regardless of their shape are perceived as connected.
This is the fundamental principle of gestalt. We prefer things that are simple, clear and ordered. Instinctually these things are safer. They take less time for us to process and present less dangerous surprises.
By examining Tomma Abts work with in the rules of the Gestalt, it is easy to see what images contribute to a ‘good’ Gestalt and what imaging work against these principles.
When the mind is prevented from understanding the meaning of an image, the Gestalt is disrupted, the viewers eye cannot rest as it tries to make sense of what is seen. The interpretation, narration and harmony of an image is denied and this produces tension. The more difficult the image it is to interpret, the more tension is produced thus making the image more absorbing in its curiosity. Equally this could become more frustrating as your eye and mind repeatedly screens the picture looking for a solution.
The Gestalt is conducive to harmony, but harmony is the ordinary, uneventful banality of the mundane. Tension on the other hand opens the imagination to new concepts and the unexpected. An example of this technique is often used by photographers. The ‘Anti Gestalt,’ going against the laws of the Gestalt, is created by altering the visual flow. The expected harmonious flow of an image would be from the left to the right with as few complications as possible. By disrupting this flow the viewer is forced to engage on a deeper level. Altering the perception of reality through tilted and distorted perspectives causes unsettling viewing. Destroying the separation of figure and background by merging them with little difference of line or colour is another way to break down the continuity of the Gestalt.(dreams of a city, 2017)
Lucas Blalock challenging the harmony of the Gestalt
Fig,24 Lucas Blalock ‘Strawberries’ (fresh forever) 2014
New York photographer, Lucas Blalock is interested in the potential of photography and unmasking the process behind photographic images. Using Film and a large -format camera, Blalock scans and digitally manipulates his images.
His work challenges not only photography but also studio practice in imaginative ways with the disruption of images, where imagined realities are displayed rather than documentary fact. The physical existence of his work can be a perplexing riddle, what seems at face value the truth is not necessary the case. Images created through manipulation can elude the domain of the visual. Photography an honest friend can be cajoled into deception, subversive in the name of art.
Blalock’s art is a blatant mockery of the usual subtle digital manipulation that seduces us into a perfect world. His photographs lay bare the reality of photoshop in its most naked representation. Deliberately, unreasonable, awkward and transparent in its amateurish application we see behind the scenes of working the picture. The space evokes unease and an underlying humour, but at the same time they convey a pureness through flawed charm.(Rodolphejanssen.com, 2017)
When speaking of his work he explains his use of photoshop, ‘The software had a lot of rules when I first learned it. It was something you were trying to be good at. It was only later that I started to get interested in how to productively break those rules.(Bombmagazine.org. (2017)
Lucas Blalock started using photoshop when he was an undergrad as a replacement for the dark room, it took him a long time to get to a place that he felt he could use it effectively in his practice. There are lots of ways to hide your labour in photoshop as there’s a lot of tools in photoshop that will do your work for you, Blalock prefers to use the labour intensive tools and use them in the most blatent way, his preference; the eraser, brush and the masking tool. Blalocks photographs offer interest because of their unresolved tension, his work is about flatness, pattern and surface.
Transposing Bertholt Brecht’s theory of alienation into photography by making the mechanics of the tools of production an evident part of the picture, Blalock images force the viewer to question the conflicting realities set before them and in turn, the contemporary condition of photography itself.'(Cube, 2017)(Bogad, L. 2017)
Blalock states that he became interested in producing layers of labour without losing the photograph. The cutting through is part of that. Using the clone stamp normally used to take out imperfections, Barlock applies it as an add or subtract tool, for example if he removes an object or person from the photograph badly it will leave a trace of interference on the image.
When looking at the photograph below, it is easy to see the disruption caused by the ‘cut or slice’. The manipulated cuts leave raw edges of disharmony. Jarring the image with unresolved tension. Blurring and promoting discord to the surface of the material as each slice works against each other.
When we say a person has seen something, we do not presume that they have just had a visual experience. We presume that the person also knows something about the object. Through the research for this dissertation we now understand that each individuals perception of an image will be subjective, influenced by the utilisation of senses and the knowledge from personal experiences. The mysterious relationship between the physical world and our perceptual reality, has been addressed through the theories of the Gestalt, perception and phenomenology. We have looked at three artists; Bridget Riley, Tomma Abts and Lucus Blalock and analysed their work. Travelling first though the harmonious colour combinations and vibrations of Riley, next, the subtle manipulations of Abts and finally the blatent disruptions of the Gestalt with Blalock.
‘There is a large circular cut to the top half of the door, this cuts through the panels and casing to the other side. The circular section has been rotated out of line with the rest of the door’ It disrupts the surface, causing an unbalancing, an interruption to the flow of the image. It evokes an unnerving to the conscious mind, a feeling that something is wrong. The viewers eye is drawn to the cut or slice while your mind struggles to interpret its meaning.’
This cut has caused an optical illusion, a slippage, a disruption, forcing the viewer to question the conflicting realities set before them.The rotation of the circular cut has evoked a visual misalignment, an ‘anti Gestalt’ that works against the laws of Continuity, symmetry and common fate. The visual flow has be altered, the slippage has caused tension in the image, that is absorbing in its curiosity. This cut or slippage is unfavourable to harmony, but harmony is the ordinary, uneventful banality of the mundane. Tension on the other hand opens the imagination to new concepts and opens the door to the unexpected.