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Medialness and the Perception of Visual Art

  • Written by David Brown

Have you ever heard of medialness? Most likely, even if you have heard about the concept itself, you still have a vague idea about what it is. Probably, no online encyclopedia explains it clearly enough even for a novice to understand. Thus, let us check some examples first.

When you are looking at something, say, a painting, you pay attention first to specific areas, the so-called tension field. Thus, based on those specific areas perception, the object is recognized. And only then, we pay attention to other areas.

In visual art, say, painting, you can draw a couple of lines to make another person recognize the object. For example, just several lines can make a person`s shape recognizable. You can add more features or create a real masterpiece, but the basics are those lines. Medialness then is the place, or rather space, between those basic lines, or shapes. We can call it a “grey space”. Therefore, we can define medialness as a core feature of a person's perception of objects in their status or dynamic condition.

Medialness in Visual Art

Medialness is an integral part of any painting. Every painting or drawing has those areas that we call a tension field, the ones that determine our perception of a painting, and medialness, the area between those tension fields. While some artists don't use these concepts explicitly, others do. And there are some artists from whose paintings you can learn what medialness is and how it can be used to show the relation between the objects and their parts.

Medialness Application in the Works of Pablo Picasso

In fine arts, you see how some artists have applied this concept to create their works. The paintings of Pablo Picasso unveil the full potential of medialness.



In his paintings, you can recognize the objects even if the contours might be displaced and lines aren't accurate. The main lines, the basics, are there, that is why the objects are easily recognizable.

The medialness is used to show the relation between the objects. Here, in the painting, we can see two different groups of people separated by medialness.



If you look further, you can detect that, most likely, figure 1 belongs to the same group as the figures 4 and 5. Again, medialness between figure 1 and 2 makes us think so.



The position of figures 2 and 3 also makes us believe they belong to a separate group. Again, medialness is used to show this belonging.



This is one of the most evident examples that show you how medialness can be used to make us perceive a painting in a way famous artists want to show it.

You can explore more works of Pablo Picasso in Wikiart, an online encyclopedia about art. Meanwhile, we will move to one more painter that for sure deserves our attention.

Henri Matisse and Medialness

When we speak about medialness in visual art, we cannot leave without attention one more famous artist Henri Matisse. He also was exploring the medialness in fine arts and has created paintings that, along with the creations of Picasso, have laid the foundation for one of the most revolutionary developments in the history of fine art.

In his painting Blue Nude II, we can see how he uses mediallness.



Matisse uses more parallelism, in the legs and hands, the alignment of the arm over the head and a folded knee create a smooth symmetrical pause.



Some more parallel areas are here:



You can explore more about both artists here: https://www.wikiart.org/. You can compare their paintings to find what similar features they have and what are their distinguishing characteristics.

Wikiart also will tell you more about famous artists who have influenced the minds of people with their works.

Medialness Is Applied Not Only in Portraits

The same principle applies not only to people but to landscapes, animals, and the world in general. We focus our attention on the main points and lines. While around them, a grey area lies that creates the shapes and relations between the objects.

For example, medialness is used in the design. Ryōan-ji garden has been one of the mysterious creations for years until it was discovered that it was designed based on a specific medialness concept. If a tree is projected in the garden, you will see that the objects follow a strict medialness concept.

Final Thoughts

You can learn from Wikiart and other sources that medialness is a term widely used not only in visual art but in computer science, psychology, and of course in art training to teach beginning painters to sketch, draw, paint, etc. In computer science, tension fields and medialness are used to teach an app to paint. And of course, these concepts are used widely to analyze the famous art creations.

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