Semiotics

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‘’The moment you believe you understand a great work of art, it’s dead for you’’ (Oscar Wilde, cited in World of Quotes) Visual Art is the embodiment of the artist’s perceptions and values. Artists convey private and public interpretation of their work using signs and symbols. The audience identifies signs and symbols found in artworks to create their own meaning. Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols, this understanding can give the viewer a more insightful interpretation towards artwork. The examination of three artists, Leonardo Da Vinci, Andy Warhol and Ron Mueck the specific viewpoints from which they produce their work are expressed. Through the analysis of elements and principles, as well as semiotics the intended meanings of each artist are communicated. The first artist that will be analysed in relation to the use of semiotics and symbolism throughout their work is Leonardo Da Vinci. Leonardo Da Vinci was born in 1452 and was unquestionably the most skilled artist of the Renaissance. The renaissance was a time period where the values within the society were express through evolving art. Leonardo used art to express his point of view on religion, politics and society because he was able to imply subtle symbols which denote his thoughts and opinions. The specific artwork by Leonardo Da Vinci that will be discussed is ‘The Last Supper’ (See Appendix 1). His Theme throughout this piece was humanism, ‘depicting God or a Holy figure as a human or at the same level as one, which had never been done before.’ (Art cyclopaedia, 2011) This artwork took three years to finish, from 1495-1497. This gives the audience a broader appreciation for the piece as the depth and complexness of the artwork is clear. Symbolism played a key role in Leonardo’s art; ‘The Last Supper’ contains symbols that can be interpreted in a variety of ways. He used these symbols to ultimately express his personal values and beliefs on religion. Leonardo used oil paint to create ‘The Last Supper’ piece. The use of colour and texture are used to display certain facial expression of the characters in the painting. He used these expressions to symbolise the difference between Christ and the Apostles, rather than raising him above the others. The Apostles faces indicate anguish or confusion as they are incapable to accept that someone would deceive Christ. However, Christ’s facial expression is tranquil and wholesome this symbolises his purity and high power. The use of tone to create lighting as well as shading in ‘The Last Supper’ is very creative. The tone creates certain emphasis and focal points. For example ‘Christ has the light coming in from the windows behind him signifying his purity and holiness’ (Art cyclopaedia, 2011). The most obvious use of symbolism is the principles and elements of design to signify Christ ad a holy figure, although he is presented in regular form. ‘The Last Supper’ portrays Leonardo Da Vinci’s personal perspective on religious viewpoints. It can be interpreted in many ways which contributes to why it is so complicated. It shows certain history about the concepts of the Renaissance, such as humanism. Through the artistic detail the artists meaning is clear. That with humanism people can realise God gave everyone an equal chance, and social statuses can began to deteriorate. This artwork will influence religious and political outlooks in society for years to come. Andy Warhol is the second artist that will be examined for certain representations of semiotics and use of personal meaning. Andy Warhol was born in 1928 in Pittsburgh. Warhol was a prominent figure of the Pop art movement. Pop art’s goal was to ‘blur the boundaries between ‘high’ and ‘low’ popular culture’ (The Art Story, 2012). Pop art explores the idea that there is no hierarchy of culture, and that art may borrow from any basis and combine it with many others. Pop art eliminates tones and textures that would otherwise be associated with...
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