Questions to answer when pursuing the meaning of a visual Artwork.

When we analyzing a visual Artwork, we are trying to understand to meaning of it, instead of just looking at an image, sculpture or installation. Parts in it and the Artwork as a whole, always represent something other than itself. And that is where Semiotic could help. Here are some questions I would like to figure out, in order to better understanding better understanding an Artwork practically.

  1. What do we expect from a “genre code”?

From my perspective, the genre code is some features share by all the works under a certain category. It is the common interpretant we could apply when analyzing works in this genre. It can help the audience to ignore the common default setting of a work, and make us to focus on the trait of itself. The genre code provides a context, not social one of the creation background or the artists’ lives, but the professional one which need to be understood first if you want to get the meaning of the painting. For example, if you want to comprehending an impressionism work, the prerequisite is that knowing the vague dots are painted intentional to represent the change of lights and color.

The reading this week talked about how individual works or a single representative artist may become a cluster of concepts. When we mentioned them, their name represents not only themselves, but also a style, a period, or a category. Are they exemplary parts of a genre, or are they become something parallel to the genre, and contains even richer representamen? What are their roles in the semiotic system of Artworks?

2. What is the “word” and “syntax” for a visual art?

Comparing to language or sound works, visual art doesn’t have certain time consequence. It generated difficulty when the audience is decoding the code. Lacking requirement of being lineal, visual artwork always make sense without a specific structure. As for artists, it means more liberty and space in working, the audience can’t understand the work by the aid of “syntax”. What is the “word” of visual art is also a significant question to answer. What is the minimal meaningful component? What is the boundary of our thought, in case that we over-interpreted an Artwork, and mistake a casual detail as a intentional one?

  1. To what extend is a token makes meanings different form the original work?

Of course, we feel different when we see work in person from watching it online. Our field has proved that. But we need to clarify two things: Frist, where are the differences come from? Is it generated from the delicate texture of brush tool, the size of the painting, “aura” of our distance to it? On the otherwise, could it come from the environment which is not part of the work itself? (For instance, the lightening and wall of the museum, the position a work is put, or the dialogue between a painting and other works nearby.) Second, does the gaps influent the meaning generated or not? This is related to the last question. When viewing an original work rather than a token, we could notice many details. However, are those details all generate meaning?

  1. Will the meaning just be accumulating or will change through the history?

In order to get the meaning of an artwork, we need to understand the social context for the creation of the artwork. For example, the case study of Morse includes his personal life, religious and political preference, as well as his academic background. Those historical events help us to understand his work, especially the House of Representatives. But through the history development, will those meanings change, or new meanings just accumulate on it?