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The organization of space in art is referred to as composition, and is an essential component of any work of art. Space can be generally defined as the area that exists between any two identifiable points.
Space is conceived of differently in each medium. The space in a painting, for example, includes the background, foreground and middle ground, while three-dimensional space, like sculpture or installation, will involve the distance between, around, and within points of the work. Space is further categorized as positive or negative. "Positive space" can be defined as the subject of an artwork, while "negative space" can be defined as the space around the subject.
Over the ages, space has been conceived of in various ways. Artists have devoted a great deal of time to experimenting with perspectives and degrees of flatness of the pictorialplane.
The perspective system has been a highly employed convention in Western art. Visually, it is an illusionist phenomenon, well suited to realism and the depiction of reality as it appears. After spending hundreds of years developing linear perspective, Western artistic conventions about the accurate depiction of space went through a radical shift at the beginning of the 20th century. The innovations of Cubism and subsequent modernist movements represented an important shift in the use of space within Western art, the impact of which is still being felt.