Ma (negative space)  

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Image:Hasegawa Tohaku, Pine Trees.jpg
Shōrin-zu byōbu — left side of a diptych by Hasegawa Tōhaku

Ma () is a Japanese word which can be roughly translated as "gap", "space", "pause" or as "the space between two structural parts." There is no equivalent single word term for Ma in the English language.

Usage in the West

In his 2001 book The Art of Looking Sideways, Alan Fletcher discusses the importance of exemplifying "space" as a substance:

"Space is substance. Cézanne painted and modelled space. Giacometti sculpted by "taking the fat off space". Mallarmé conceived poems with absences as well as words. Ralph Richardson asserted that acting lay in pauses... Isaac Stern described music as "that little bit between each note - silences which give the form"... The Japanese have a word (ma) for this interval which gives shape to the whole. In the West we have neither word nor term. A serious omission."

Thomas Pynchon's book The Crying of Lot 49 stresses the concept of waste in language, in terms of negative space determining outcomes of actual events.

The Honda VFR 1200 motorcycle specifically references the concepts of Ma relative to the design of the space between the side fascia.

Usage in Eastern Philosophy

The Taoist philosopher Lao Tse wrote extensively on the concept of Ma including his poem The Uses of Not :

Thirty spokes meet in the hub,
but the empty space between them
is the essence of the wheel.
Pots are formed from clay,
but the empty space between it
is the essence of the pot.
Walls with windows and doors form the house,
but the empty space within it
is the essence of the house.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ma (negative space)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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