The beginnıng of the 20-th century was marked by one of the most significant achievements in human history – the invention of cinema. It ignited a sort of cultural revolution and led to the golden thread of breakthroughs in terms of communication methods and visual effects. However, alongside with these innovations, cinema inherited some features from its predecessors, such as art of theatre, painting, and photograph.
Authors of different time and origin have always strived to complement their stories with figurative means of expression and thus have been using an incredible amount of methods to transmit the plethora of ideas and emotions. Bekbolot Asanakunov, the student of Radio, TV & Cinema Department in American University of Kyrenia, shares his view on symbolism in visual art in this article.
Edited by Taliya Khafizou
Article by Bekbolot Asanakunov
Symbolism in Visual Art
Color spectrum, certain composition and the use of ambiguous objects have been common tools of “symbolic expression”. Much of these means are used nowadays as before, though techniques and abilities to put it all into the work ameliorated throughout centuries. Sometimes, these details not only complement the story, but provide a double-meaning, which gives the audience the opportunity to interpret the message in different ways. Such works resemble Russian “Matryoshka” – we can find many layers of something new within them.
Sometimes you cannot escape from the use of symbolism in art, because our life is full of little things, the details, as well as the symbols that highlight various aspects of our existence. They dictate our actions.
For example, when you drive the car and see the red round circle on the road, what do you do? You stop. And you do not even need to see this word on the sign to understand what needs to be done. Red color represents the danger or its approach. While its contrasting color, green, is associated with tranquility and security.
Now we will look how all these techniques are incorporated into the art.
These paintings were drawn by Gabriel Metsu in middle of 1600’s shortly before his death. If we look at the both works more closely, we can see the common motive, or even the whole story, which connects them.
In the first case, the man is writing the letter, and by his clothes and the apartment we can say that he is rich. And if we look at the globe that stands at the corner of his room, we can suggest that his field of interest is maybe travelling. It was very popular to travel among wealthy families of that time, when not all the lands were still discovered. On the second painting we see what happened with the letter. Girl, probably his lover, received it and now reading it. Again, by the difference in clothes between her and the maid, we can say that the woman is rich too, and probably from a wealthy family. And the second painting gives a lot of clues about the relationship between two main characters. First, it’s too hard to ignore this big painting here. Which, by the way, is covered by a green material – seems a bit strange, right? Maid is some kind of opening to us the possible future or the field of the work of this man here. 1) Maybe, it depicts his current location. He is a sailor. Discoverer. And he had written a love letter right before went sailing. 2) Probably, it describes their relationship. That nothing good will happen, and it just will break down like this ship under the waves….
Secondy, the maid holds the letter. It tells us that the man from the first painting is not an anonymous admirer, but they know each other. Thirdly, we may notice two arrows on the basket and that refers us back to the myth about the little “amour” angel, who shoots arrows to make people fall in love.
The man on the first painting is surrounded by red color. Which describes his anxiety about the letter just in a perfect way. And this is absolutely opposite to the girl who is surrounded by all the soft colors such as green, white walls, beautiful pink, yellow clothes and calm blue curtain right beside her.
Firstly, both paintings have the same proportion in sizes. It is 52.5 cm × 40.2 cm.
Furthermore, it is hard to ignore the common style of both works, which literally reflect each other. We see many things in the rooms such as chairs, ceramic floors, paintings, windows. Attention, one more detail: we can see that one of the shoes is missing…, probably Gabriel Metsu wanted to leave this feeling of “the lack of something”. Maybe, such detail metaphorically expresses the presence of Him beside Her? Such figurative, metaphorical and symbolic details can be perceived and deciphered differently, which constitutes their magic and beauty.
Last but not least, cinema as the visual art took all those techniques and pushed them to the different level. Here are some examples of how cinema has successfully used and developed symbolism.