This series seeks to create inconceivable depth and materiality through the dependency of association between fields, which maintains a flickering figure/ground through the kinetic presence of densities, planes and shifting voids that congest in a central moment of disturbance, granting the viewer fleeting moments of clarity, that are immediately stolen back by the disturbance. 

Through the overlay of composition properties and the introduction of chasm like voids that gravitate towards the center, the initial simplistic hierarchy of center, immediate adjacency and peripheral adjacency becomes more complex and fluid. As one shifts their position in relationship to the model, these voids flex and shift while the saturated gray palette jumps across the nearby planes

A Gray Essay on Walter White

The viewer’s understanding of foreground and background is palpably adjusted through the ultimate splitting of both components to create the illusion of four distinct, yet highly dependent and related, aspects. The composition’s background is essentially identified one entity, yet the two components, left and right, have distinct readings in the image. The central foreground is divided through stark contrast; the presentation of such polarities creates ‘one’ disturbing moment in the center, which therefore allows for separate readings of the left and right side of the background due to their adjacency to either edge of the contrast.

Barthes and Krauss position qualities in From the Neutral, “A structural, paradigmatic game is thus set between qualities; that’s to say, two opposed qualities + one quality that combines them, reconciles them: it’s the A and B of the A/B paradigm: complex term.”[1] I would argue that in this composition, one reconciling moment is actually behaving as a separator, or a disturbance that allows the viewer to understand background left or right as truly background A and background B, not a singular entity. This foreground disturbance is in itself two opposed qualities, which allows the reading of A and B to shift based on their allegiance and positioning with the foreground disturbance.

Through the analysis of the foreground disturbance, there is an understanding of balance between the two distinguished parts, as the borderline of contrast creates relatively even amounts of light and dark – a mirror effect of the two.  In “The Mirror Stage,” Lacan argues for a subliminal understanding of the composition, suggesting that the viewer is always adjusting their perception of the composition – and one composition cannot universally be understood.[2] Therefore, the reading of background left and right is adjusted based on the viewer, and their ability to process the composition through the foreground disturbance.

Instead, the brain executes “binding,” which Hansen explains in From Fixed to Fluid. “The brain does not wait for each area to complete its processings; rather it simply binds what has been processed and reached a perceptual level. This in turn suggests strongly that binding is a post-consciousness phenomenon.[1]  Due to the composition’s density in the foreground, the brain normally perceives this matter first – and then binds the left and right background accordingly. Because we have no conscious control of this procedure, image-processing will always intrinsically be subjective due to the nature of our microtemporal subconscious behavior.

“[Cezanne] was the first to develop color areas which produce both distinct and indistinct endings – areas connected and unconnected – areas with and without boundaries – as means of plastic organization.”[2] The Image is a “temporal process” rather than a “spatial/visual” figure.[3] In other words, a “fluid image” that can hold its own in relation to today’s “social media networks, ubiquitous computational environments, and wireless digital devices” that are in the “process of generating [this] new kind of image that operates through direct transduction with the microtemporal operations of human cognition and imaging.”[4] This composition, initially organized through a simple relationship of background and disruptive foreground, becomes attractively complex through the dynamism of color properties and association.


[1] Hansen, From Fixed to Fluid, 88.

[2] Josef Albers, Interaction of Colors

[3] Hansen, 104.

[4] Hansen, 111.

[1] Roland Barthes and Rosalind Krauss, “From The Neutral Session of March 11, 1978,October, Volume 112 (MIT Press, 2005) 15.

[2] Jacques Lacan, “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytical Experience,” 504.


Gray Area: On Flickering, Erosion, Collapse and other Uncertain Figures
Assist. Prof. Maya Alam
500 Level PE Seminar
Fall 2017