Semiotics is the study of the meaning and interpretationsderived from signs and symbols in our everyday life. Through semiotics we caninvestigate how meaning is formed and how it can be communicated. Its origins liein the academic study of how signs and symbols (visual and linguistic) createan interactive understanding. It is a way of seeing the world, and of seeing theway that the surroundings in which we live, impact all of us daily yet unconsciously.A sign stands for a purpose, object or an occurrence that directs the presence.Nature of a sign is arbitrary and it simply has to be learned.
Signs roughlyfacts or instructs someone about something or a situation. Symbols representsconvention about something visible that has attached meaning and information.It is commonly acknowledged that the foundations of semiotictheory can be derived from two key theorists; these being Ferdinand de Saussureand Charles Sanders Peirce. Saussure, a Swiss linguist, researched what hecalled ‘semiology’ towards the end of the 19th century.
Semiologyfocused on the pattern and function belonging to language itself. Simultaneously, in the United States, Charles Sanders Peircewas writing in the same area of study. Pierce defined three categories ofsigns: Icon, Index, and Symbol, – where Icon resembles the sign, index links asign to an object, and symbol is an allocated glyph or image, removed fromdirect inference of it’s meaning – that we learn to associate with a meaning,despite their clear abstraction. Saussure being a linguist states that wordsare symbolic signs and categories the signs comparable to Peirce in two ways:Iconic and Arbitrary, where iconic was resemblance as Peirce’s icon andArbitrary was the link between the signifier and the signified through decidedterms as Peirce’s symbol.Semiosisis the term that Peirce uses for an action or process that shows link between asign, an object and its meaning (the act of signifying).
His way of describingSemiosis was open with no one fixed meaning. It was a working process involvingboth the reader of the sign and sign itself. And the understanding of the signwill depend purely on the learning of the reader. Here readers learning couldbe its upbringing, culture and practices.The areas that form the support of what semiotics can be arethe sign themselves, the way they are organized into systems and the context inwhich they appear. Saussure being a linguist viewed that the thought could beoriginated by understanding language if meaning could be found in language.
Linguistics was also an attempt to describe signs by seeing them as a series ofgestures, actions and perceptions. This was then processed to a relative studyof forms of words in different languages and their evolution. RolandBarthes, a follower of Saussure studied Saussure thoughts and redefined theroles of readers, the content and their relationship together. Semiotics forhim was beyond the words and its presence into any system of signs. Visual communication is an interaction through imageries andis portrayed through the conveyance of thoughts and information that can beread or observed. Visual communication mainly is dependent on vision that iseither created or produced like signs, symbols, typography, drawing, design,illustration, color etc. Visual Message with text present is also a reallystrong medium to convey, influence and educate the reader or an audience.
Inparticularly to signs, they can take the form of words, images, sounds,aromas, tastes, acts or objects, but such things have no natural meaning andbecome signs only when we provide them with meaning. Semiotictheories are always changing, studied further to develop them to make it morespecific and progressed to the significance of the data that has been found andimprove these concepts when they are implied to works of art. Art being such abig term always change in different perspectives, here Visual art.
When semiotics is viewed over the art signs and symbols,they give every viewer their own perception to understand the meaning. Artistsconvey their message in a pictorial language with standard, basic rules ofpicture-making. Today with this leading technology we all have become visualart consumers who interact, read signs and signals and decode them to formmeaning and learn information out unconsciously all the time. Everythingsurrounding us today involving us and our opinion is interacting and beinginfluenced by signs, words, image and sound. This interaction is a form of athought control, that we are able to convey our messages creatively and havethem making a point for a larger audience to perceive it in the way we wantthem to perceive or the way they themselves want to understand the meaning.Similarly, artwork with a conceptual meaning that has a message to be conveyedcan activate audience’s minds to collect and understand the meaning.
Pictorial semiotics is mostly the study of pictures in aconstructive verbal description that is done with keeping the nature of act inmind. Comparing this to Saussure’s theory, Linguistic communities that speak adecided language are frequently implementing tiny changes that are easily beingable to amend with. The thought of depiction where rules needs to be followedare used by using signs. This is where the concepts of semiotics are used tolay out and break information to larger audiences. Artists usually find the distinctness between the signifier (sound or image) and the meaning thathas been expressed by a sign.
Signhere usually acts as a carrier of information that we use to understand theportrayed situation or thought and the work shown by the artist by comparing itto our knowledge. There is no definitive waythat we as humans perceive a ‘good’ work of art, some might explain art to bethe deliberate creation of something picturesque or evocative using skill andimagination. But art can be entirely subjective, our definition of the wordchanges with each cultural turn.
The definition of art is often grouped inthree ways: representation, expression, and form. What are we taking backfrom looking at the ‘artwork’, what is the artist trying to convey? Art ismeant to cause a lot of questions because it is so fluid and undefinable– soits never something we can get a direct answer from. There is a huge line betweenan artwork that’s created as a signage that we see around as rules or safetymeasures in our everyday surroundings and artwork as an expression. A lot of peoplemake decisions or think of things based on what they like to see, when theyinteract with artwork– things that are aesthetically pleasing to them. Representation is integralto culture, a culture is constructed by a network of shared memory because themeaning is shared, this means that everyone can interpret the world more orless the same way. The difference between the interpretation can be difficultto portray for artists sometimes when they need to express something soaccurately that it is understood the same by everyone.
Where as sometimes theyalso have freedom to play on this differences. Example: Whenthe artist has to illustrate something that is understood and holds the samemeaning to each viewer, for an instance a front door then- he/she thinks of ahouse with a front door – and questions what color is the door, what is it madeof, how big is it, does it have a handle or a doorbell etc. The artist in thiscase will have to go through all these subjects in order to make sure that theaudience understands what he/she are representing as the front door. Else, an artistcan test the limits of what it means to be a front door and can push the limitsof a front door until it looses its meaning and could be broken down to his/herpersonal way of expressing in their own language making it open for the viewerto respond to it individually. Different opinions havelead to different cultures resulting in making of languages. Here semioticsplays a vital role, the language is in turn built up of symbols and signs likeletters and numbers. Semiotics here is a good gateway to use to understand.
Example: when we think think of a word forinstance -classroom we understand what classroom is, we start imagining aboard, tables, chairs, books, students etc. The word itself doesn’t tell uswhat it is but can suggest the same imagery to us all because of the letters ina particular order that we relate a shared meaning. If we switch around theletters we can get loads of other words which can mean something completelydifferent; so therefore order becomes really important which can be applied tolooking at artwork as well. Understanding art is like translating it andrelating it to things that we comprehend like love or grief or simple aestheticvalues or the use of color and its always understood vastly differently fromperson to person. Its all about communicating the signifying signs and symbolsthat the artwork is trying to show us.