The Gestalt Of Missing Pieces

When we look at works of art it’s common to think that everything has been fully developed and presented to us by the artist but generally this is not the case. Artists often leave some things incomplete, or they only suggest things and expect viewers to imagine the missing information. They can use loose sketchy brushwork or deep shadows or implied lines that don’t actually exist. This strategy is based on the gestalt principles discussed in chapter eight of Design: A Beginner’s Handbook. Using this strategy brings energy to a composition and engages the viewer in a more active role than they would normally have. Here are two examples where artists intentionally leave something for the viewer to complete.

Line drawing by Saul Steinberg

For the last half of the twentieth century Saul Steinberg was one of America’s most beloved artist/illustrators. Steinberg’s images routinely combined the bold use of collage, some elements of Cubism and Surrealism, and his unique brand of whimsy. They often included Steinberg’s signature use of line…line that describes the essence of an object while simultaneously acting as a playful, inventive design element. In the image above, the single line plays both of these roles. The line describes the figure of the artist…caught in the act of creating the line itself…as it lazily loops over the entire space. But wait, half the figure is unfinished – to be completed in our imagination.

Watermelon installation by Sakir Gokcebag

Sakir Gökcebag is a contemporary Turkish artist living in Germany. He is known for creating installations of common objects. The objects get transformed from purely functional items to poetic formal elements via simple manipulations and inventive arrangements. In the installation shown here several watermelons have been precisely cut and then arranged in a geometric configuration. Looking at the melons we also see an independent rectangular image in the center of the grouping (as if a photograph had been placed on top of some uncut melons). The illusion of an image-within-an-image lasts only a moment and exists solely in our perception, but that brief experience makes these six watermelons a lot more interesting than they were before Sakir Gökcebag altered and arranged them. Imagine the difference between this photograph and the experience you would have seeing the installation in person.

You can learn more about Saul Steinberg here…

You can see more of Sakir Gökcebag’s artwork here…

This entry was posted in Artists and Designers, Elements and Principles and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *