The beauty and necessity of negative space.

Humans have a fundamental need for shadows, for negative space, for blank space on the page, for silence. We just aren’t wired to be at our best in a situation in which everything in front of us is brightly illuminated and noisy. Some of us have a higher tolerance than others, but we all have a fundamental need to escape that periodically.

We need space to think and to exist. We need some blank canvas to stare at. We need silence to process. If we fill every corner and have all of the lights on all of the time our brain shuts down.

Negative space, the largely blank or homogeneous area in an image that surrounds the subject, is often key to appreciating the subject. When there’s just one object in focus or illuminated your eye rests on that subject, absorbing small details that would be lost in a more frenetic setting.

Shadows in a room accomplish this purpose. They narrow the focus of attention naturally so we don’t have to struggle to maintain that focus.

Lighting in church should be considered just as important as other design elements. The struggle to focus on prayer is a real and inescapable thing for most of us. Avoiding over-illuminating the space is a simple way to reduce distraction.

“…hide me under the shadow of thy wings…”

[Ps. 17:8]

At home we need space as well. We need a physical space to pray, and we need a space in time that is quiet.

11 And he said, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

[1 Kings 19:11-12]

God created day and night. He created light and shadows. He created sound and silence. Let us not deprive ourselves of these parts of creation God intended for our benefit.

4 thoughts on “The beauty and necessity of negative space.

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