You’re an art connoisseur. If not only in your own mind, then perhaps as evidenced by that eye-popping gouache you just purchased in Chelsea. Or, maybe your draw towards art is totally utilitarian. Because although you know nothing of color theory, you do know that the bare walls in your new 2000-square-foot apartment are shrieking for more attention than the hungry newborn next door.
Either way, you have an innate realization of the power of art in built spaces. You understand how art can influence our attitudes, emotions, moods, and psychology, when present in our environment.
There’s a name for this broader practice of creatively and intentionally shaping a space to enhance our overall well-being.
It’s called Feng Shui.
As a Classical Feng Shui consultant, I love sharing the principles of Feng Shui with those who want to positively shift their lives by shifting elements in their space. Art can have a profound effect on us, so here we’ll discuss how art fits into the greater equation of Feng Shui. But first, let me explain more precisely what Feng Shui is.
Over 3,000 years old and rooted in Chinese culture, Feng Shui is an ancient system used to harmonize the energy in our environment. It is based on the observation that we as human beings flourish in settings that support us energetically, psychologically, and emotionally, and that when this support is maximized, it can positively influence our relationships, careers, creativity, and health.
The practice of Feng Shui ranges from the ostensibly simple to the highly complex. The Form School of Feng Shui examines how objects in our environment create specific patterns of energy flow and promote either human anxiety or human ease. The Compass School of Feng Shui assesses the energy of a space by using calculations that factor in time and direction, and corrects any energetic imbalances using the five natural elements of fire, earth, metal, water, and wood (live plants).
Together, the Form School and Compass School make up what’s known as Traditional or Classical Feng Shui. For centuries, Feng Shui was recognized as being so powerful that it was kept secret by Chinese royalty.
Fine art is an important influencer within the context of Feng Shui. From the perspective of the Form School, art brings color, light, shape, and imagery that can have a strong impact on our psychological responses and, in the case of shape, can affect energy flow. From the perspective of the Compass School, art constructed from any of the five natural elements, or pigmented by colors associated with these elements, can be used to correct energy imbalances. For your home, condo, or office, here are some of the ways in which art can enhance the Feng Shui of your space:
1. Art can promote a high emotional vibration.
Art can be used in your space to evoke only your most positive feelings and responses. You should never settle on art that that makes you feel ‘so so’, just for the sake of having art around. If you do, then the one feature of a piece that doesn’t feel ‘quite right’ will often become what you focus on when you look at it. This will lower your vibration.
If you simply feel neutral about a piece, it’s better to delay any purchase until you find something that truly inspires you. If you’ve searched high and low with no luck, stop searching. As cliché as it may sound, go with the flow of life and, eventually, the right piece will find you.
2. Art can help you focus on your life’s vision.
Images are extremely powerful, so ask yourself: “What do the images that surround me communicate to me on a daily basis?” If those images are in alignment with your goals, then perfect. If not, then it’s time to make some changes.
For example, if you’re single and want a romantic partner, display art that portrays couples and pairings, (especially in the bedroom), as opposed to people and scenes that are solitary. If you’re looking to increase your financial status, choose office art that communicates wealth and abundance, even if in the abstract. In personal quarters, as long as you understand the meaning that a piece of art has for you, that’s what counts.
Although a piece may have critical acclaim, it still may not stand up to the test of whether or not to display it prominently. A visually stunning and riveting photograph that captures a devastating or sorrowful moment, for example, might be best referred to from the pages of a photo book, unless that’s the dominant energy you want in your space.
3. Art can help ‘set the tone’ for your space.
Placing a great, appropriate piece of art at your entrance is an effective way to ‘set the stage’ for what you want yourself and others to experience in the space. People will immediately know what conversation they’re entering into when they step across the threshold of your home or business. Is your conversation elegance and class? Fun and creativity? Innovation and forward thinking? You make the call.
New energy finds its way into your space via the entrance. Take every opportunity to influence that energy, (including the energy of your guests, clients, or patrons), towards what you want it to be!
4. Art can balance excess ‘Yin’ or ‘Yang’ energy.
‘Yin’ and ‘Yang’ refer to the two primary and polar opposite energies in nature that, when balanced, result in harmony. ‘Yin’ is passive, dark, and cold, while ‘Yang’ is active, bright, and hot. Yin/Yang theory is an important underlying principle in Feng Shui.
When considering what art to bring into a space, take note as to whether the space already feels too ‘Yin’ or too ‘Yang’. Then, use art to help offset any imbalances. For example, if a space feels too small, use landscape paintings or photography with great depth to help it feel extended. If a space is too dark, consider displaying sculpture or 3-D art that has light reflective surfaces.
If a room displays lots of smooth surfaces, opt for art that boasts texture. If the furniture in a space has busy patterns, integrate art with more solid patterns. You get the idea.
5. Art can enhance the function of a room.
Every space has a purpose, and art can be used to promote this purpose. If relaxation is the goal, such as with a bedroom, incorporate art with relaxing imagery, curves and soft lines (as opposed to sharp angles), and colors that are neutral or subdued.
If your goal for a space is to entertain and be festive, incorporate pieces with more saturated colors, sharper line movement or abstract shapes.
In the bedroom, be sure the imagery isn’t a deterrent to intimacy; art depicting individual family members, a family group, or religious themes are best reserved for other areas of the home.
6. Art can promote visual grounding and visual balance.
We feel most comfortable in spaces where our eyes know where to rest. Art can be used to visually ground a space by creating an interesting focal point. If a great focal point is already present, such as a beautiful fireplace or standout piece of furniture, then fine art can be placed above or around the focal point to enhance it.
When hanging art, be sure to mount it such that the center is at eye level for a person of average height. (If people are usually seated in the space, such as with a dining room, lower the center of the piece to seated eye level.) When considering the best size for art intended to hang above a piece of furniture, choose art that is about two-thirds the width of the furniture.
7. Art can weave the five Feng Shui elements into your space.
This is where more detailed knowledge of Feng Shui must be applied. As a Classical Feng Shui consultant, I can map the energy of a space and advise on where to specifically place elements to balance the energy. The great thing about Feng Shui is that you can integrate the five elements, (or colors representing these elements), into your environment in almost any way you wish, including through art.
For example, if you needed the earth element in the southeast portion of your home, you could use a terracotta sculpture. If you needed the metal element at your entrance, a copper wire sculpture on a small side table could do the trick.
The water element could be introduced via an oil painting with brilliant blues and blacks, or even via an artistic water installation. The fire element could occur in the form of a wall sized photograph with a striking red tint, and a watercolor with luscious greens could tie in the wood element where needed. Regardless of your artistic tastes, the options are many.
Using art to promote good Feng Shui is an art in itself. You’ve already been practicing your own form of Feng Shui simply by bringing art into your space! Remember that our surroundings affect us in so many ways, so go ahead and make yours remarkable.