The term formline refers to the continuous swelling and tapering lines that unite design units in Northwest Coast Indigenous art. It is one of the most distinct characteristics of Haida two-dimensional and three-dimensional art, painting as well as carving. Each nation has their own recognizable style with main design features like the ovoid, U-form, and tri-neg. The term Formline was coined by art historian Bill Holm in the 1960s which gave scholars, collectors, and Indigenous artists a vocabulary with which to discuss and appreciate the iconic art form.
“Formline is a visual language. It has been taught and developed by thousands of artists over many generations. It can be viewed as representational or abstract, positive or negative, literal or spiritual. Robert Davidson speaks of formline as a ‘skeleton’ that contains ‘energy fields,’ referring to the structure and pulse of the forms.” - From Echoes of the Supernatural: The Graphic Art of Robert Davidson by Gary Wyatt