Dynamics of Composition
A composition can never be entirely neutral. The perception of each visual element is affected by its relation to others. Every element adds to the balance of the composition. The amount of details in turn defines the way we grasp and process visual information. Without a rare photographic memory, there is a certain loss of detail that occurs as we try to recall any complex image. In fact, psychologist George A. Miller15 has proven that our working memory can at most focus on seven plus or minus two elements at a time. Beyond that we start to lose count and make mistakes. In order to extend our memory we need to find a logic or rhythm — such as rhymes in poetry — or lump the details into bigger groups to grasp them as a whole. In visuals, this limits has a generalising effect of our perception. We look at a few stones and assume that the rest look alike, treating the ground like a pattern. Instead of a detail, we see groups and masses. Instead of individual trees, we see a forest. The more we see, the less we see, and vice versa.
The Gestalt theory suggest that there are certain visual signifiers that cause us to perceive some elements as separate or part of a unified whole. The Gestalt Principles are: similarity, continuation, closure and proximity. The same principles are behind the concepts of foreground and background — the assumed continuation of a surface behind perceived elements. These principles of visual perception can be successfully applied to various designs to surprise the eye through clever, unexpected connections. These small discoveries help keep the visuals engaging and offer something for the viewer. In that way, art can become like a visual game between the artwork and the viewer. It can inform or amuse, re-assure or contradict us, depending on its construction.