Sophie Taeuber-Arp
Composition with Circles Shaped by Curves
1935, Gouache on paper, 35x27cm, Kunstmuseum, Bern
the artist, Sophie Taeuber-Arp      
info & works | info | video | links
UnityDescribe the forms that contribute to the unity of this composition.

(look for elements and traits that repeatedly appear)
The shapes themselves provide the main unity — all are circles with two circular cuts removed. Note of the circles seem quite perfect, they are all slightly distorted or irregular.
Every object is a sort of "apple core" shape.

Clean, sharp edges along with mostly neutral color establish unify the design.
Textures are smooth and slick, shapes are flat with no modeling — absent any rough or soft textures.

The shapes each have an axis or a direction -- rotating a bit like clock hands pointing in different directions.. All shape directions are jumbled...their orientation or rotation is consistently irregular rather than "ordered" or planned or placed horizontally or vertically -- angles that would appear intentional rather than randomand playful.

(look for alignments, structures or groupings that organize parts into larger entities (gestalt))
The shapes are loosely grouped — clustered, leaving some negative space to the left and along the right edge.

VarietyDescribe the forms that contribute to the variety and dynamism of this painting.

(look for contrast of any and every kind. Look especially for similar forms that are varied in some way. Look for anomalies — patterns or norms that are broken.)

Bold value contrast along with clean, sharp-edge shapes helps figures/objects separate well from the background.
There are several values and even a bit of green and tan color in the figures.
All of the figures are "turned" to their own angle -- rotated distinctively.
Though spacing is not very varied, every pair of shapes is spaced uniquely.
The openings in the shapes varies as well, the position and the size of the "bite" varies.

Basically, there is such a high degree of unity here, that even very small variations are noticable and, in their way, interesting.

The jumbled orientations, noted in the "unity" comments, also creates a looseness. No two are at exactly the same angle (and those which have similar angles/directions, thus, stand out.)

Focal AreasWhat areas are focal areas?
Describe the forms that contribute to their graphic emphasis?

There are no prominent focal areas here — the design is almost a pattern of regular shapes. Nevertheless, subtle differences matter, enabling some shapes to stand out due to their subtle but distinct differences.

Subtle Focal areas include...

The pair of small green shapes (upper area) draws attention.
These are smaller than the rest of the shapes (size contrasts with the norm; size anomaly) .
These are a richer green and somehwhat darker than the rest of the shapes (contrast of color and value; colr anomaly)
These are also aligned with respect to each other as no other shapes are alligned. Their axes are roughly vertical and so parallel witheach other. Their "holes" or openings face each other...creating a roughly continuous negative space. All of the ther shape-openings do not align.

The most open large shape, the most leftward shape, has a bit more space around it -- and its cutouts are so large that it seems to be trying to swallow the shape below it.
The empty space in the center takes on a character of its own, as well -- forming a more curious negative shape than any of the repeated figures.

The three large shapes on the right, whose axes align vertically ... these shapes tend to cluster as a group, making a much larger unit than any single shape elsewhere.
The topmost shape in the stack seems to "push" two other shapes out of the way, creating a kind of tension or interaction that is not present elsewhere.

Relief Areas

Broad, simple areas of black preserve the power of the lighter-toned focal elements. The background has no competing shapes, colors, textures or patterns that might compete with the simple foreground shapes.

The background color contrasts well with each of the foreground shapes helping to separate figure from ground well.