Meaning of Art

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Meaning in art is a complex of intellectual, emotional, and sensory significations which the work conveys and to which the viewer responds, bringing in the breadth of his or her cultural background, artistic exposure and training, and human experience in a dialogic relationship with the art work.

In the basic semiotic plane which deals with the material aspect of the work and in the iconic plane which deals with the features of the image itself, one can see that as the signifier cannot be separated from the signified, concrete fact or material data cannot be divorced from value; in other words, fact is value-laden and value or ideological meaning is derived from material fact.

If one does not view the work in relation to its context, but chooses to confine analysis to the internal structure of the work, one truncates its meaning by refusing to follow the trajectories of the work into the larger reality that surrounds it.

The work of art has its horizon of meaning which is narrower or larger depending on the degree of cultural literacy, cultural breadth, art exposure and training, and intellectual and emotional maturity of the viewer.

The work of art may contain references and allusions, direct or indirect, to historical figures and events, as well as to religious, literary, and philosophical ideas and values which are part of the meaning of the work.

Finally, a single work of art is often more completely understood when it is viewed in the context of the artist's entire body of work, when it is juxtaposed and compared on the semiotic, iconic, and contextual planes with works of the artist in the same period, in different periods of his/her career, and then with the work of contemporaries.

It is semiotic analysis involving the basic semiotic plane, the iconic plane and the contextual plane that shows how meaning is produced through the interrelationship of the signifiers (material features) and signifieds (concepts, values) in the unique...
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