The area in which objects exist is called positive space. Space may also be the distance, void or interval between things such as moments of silence in music, a pause in speech, or the blank area between frames in a wall group. This is known as negative space. Positive and negative spaces are equally important in the layout, placement and visual unity of a grouping. Horizontal or vertical placement of similarly framed pieces easily helps create a unity through symmetry when hanging (photo 1). But when the arrangement is a group of items with various frame sizes, styles and colors, the placement and space reigns supreme.
Vertical placement on these narrow walls adds design interest, while the alignment create unity.
Negative spaces between frames should remain relatively consistent in order to establish a rhythm and pattern to a wall group, and there should be at least one common line—horizontal, vertical or centered—between any two frames to work as a stabilizer and unifier (photo 2). For common top—or bottom—line, begin from an imaginary horizontal and align each frame edge along it. All other frames should have a common line connection with another frame in the group.
A calligraphic arrangement using theme, contemporary designs and common line to establish unity.
Expand the group in other directions by finding new vertical and horizontal common lines as needed to accommodate the new additions, while maintaining the same established space between all frames for continuity. By working from a horizontal common line at the top with all other pieces in the group, the arrangement allows for growth of additional pieces without rearranging them. The diagonal placed frame at the top breaks the common horizontal top line in the photo, but has a common center line with the two below it. This group began with only the two PPFA certificates far left, which have remained set apart for added emphasis.
Unity is easily achieved when hanging a series of 4-6-8-10 or more identically framed pieces, using same frame, mat colors and sizes. And as noted last month—even when border proportions all vary to accommodate various sized images, unity remains. And the easiest way to establish unity in composition when the frames, mats and proportions all vary is through common line. Frames placed close together—off common line—unify a group, while those placed too far apart may feel unrelated (diagram 1).
Frames may be close, but too far apart may be fatal.
Unity may be established through common theme, contemporary framing style, and/or consistent spacing between frames. By concentrating on alignment and negative spaces between the frames, visual unity is easily achieved. Nearly any combination of frame sizes, shapes, or subject may be clustered to contour to any wall space, and remember, a blank wall is only a large negative space waiting for art.
Copyright © 2012 Chris A Paschke
For more articles on mounting basics look under the mounting section in Articles by Subject.
Additional information on all types of mounting is found in:
The Mounting and Laminating Handbook, Second Edition, 2002,
The Mounting And Laminating Handbook, Third Edition, 2008 and
Creative Mounting, Wrapping, And Laminating, 2000 will teach you everything you need to know about getting the most from your dry mount equipment and materials as an innovative frame designer.
All books are available from Designs Ink Publishing through this website.
Chris A Paschke, CPF GCF
Designs Ink Publishing
785 Tucker Road, Suite G-183
Tehachapi, CA 93561