Form Space & Order
Form and shape are areas or masses which define objects in space. Form and shape imply space; indeed, they cannot exist without space.
There are various ways to categorize form and shape. Form and shape can be thought of as either two dimensional or three dimensional. Two dimensional form has width and height. It can also create the illusion of three dimensional objects. Three dimensional shape has depth as well as width and height.
Form and shape can also be described as either organic or geometric. Organic forms such as these snow-covered boulders typically are irregular in outline, and often asymmetrical. Organic forms are most often thought of as naturally occurring.
Geometric forms are those which correspond to named regular shapes, such as squares, rectangles, circles, cubes, spheres, cones, and other regular forms. Architecture, such as this example by Frank Lloyd Wright, is usually composed of geometric forms. These forms are most often thought of as constructed or made. If you are interested in the visual possibilities of geometric forms, take a look at an index to images of mathematical origami, you might wish to look at this Website, or at least at these mathematically generated forms.
However, not all made objects are geometric; many designed forms have irregular contours. Although this kimono is geometric in its construction, the surface design is organic in form.
Nor are all naturally occurring objects organic; snowflakes and soap bubbles are among many geometric forms found in nature. If you are interested in seeing other visual examples of geometry in nature, you might enjoy looking at this site, in which patterns found in nature are explored.
There are some other terms commonly used to describe form and shape in composition; these have to do with what kind of representations the forms have. If we can recognize everyday objects and environments, we refer to the images as being realistic, or naturalistic. However, if the images are difficult or impossible to identify in terms of our normal, daily visual experience, we may refer to the images as abstract.
There are several kinds of abstract images. Generally, abstractions are “abstracted” or derived from realistic images – perhaps even distorted–, but perhaps in such a way that the source is not immediately apparent. An example of this would be one of Georgia O’keefe’s paintings of a detail from a flower. This kind of abstraction in art is sometimes referred to as an objective image — that is, it is derived from an actual object. On the other hand, some abstract art images are based on a pure study of form, line, and color, and do not refer to any real-world object or scene. such art works are sometimes referred to as non-objective images.
Charicature is a special instance of abstraction, in which realistic images are distorted to make a statement about the people, places, or objects portrayed. This is probably the kind of abstraction we are most familiar with, as it is constantly presented to us via all sorts of popular media. However, it is important to remember that had not the more difficult-to-understand conventions of abstraction in the fine arts not broken ground with experiments in distortion, we would not be able to make sense out of some charicature images. A century ago, there was really nothing equivalent to our modern cartoons.
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