Japanese art & design: shape & balance
Shape is an important element of Japanese style and decoration. The most obvious forms are those based on the square and rectangle, which are used for lacquer boxes, chests, screens and some ceramics. Rectangles, which represent an artificial form not often found in nature, are used to create the T-shaped outline of the kimono. Curved and circular shapes arc thought to suggest intuition and inspiration
Many objects contain elements of both forms. For example, though lacquer boxes, screens and kimono are rectangular in shape, they may be decorated with curving, fluid patterns using natural motifs. Samurai costume consists of both angular and curved elements; samurai were meant to have insight as well as strength. Unornamented surfaces are an essential part of the Japanese decorative repertoire. Plain surfaces are valued as highly as patterned, just as the silences in classical Japanese music are thought to be as important as the notes played. `Quiet' space provides a balance to 'noisy' ornament. This can most easily be seen on regular forms. You will find ceramics decorated with a small picture and a large amount of background, prints with plain backgrounds or with a high proportion of unprinted paper, and decorated lacquer boxes and screens that display large areas of black unadorned lacquer.
Japanese decoration often divides a surface diagonally, balancing a design with space across a diagonal plane. This breaks up the regular geometry of a polygon giving an impression of asymmetry.