Communication in Visual Art


Communication when it comes to writing sometimes could permit unpardonable mistakes that the writer, if given the chance, will follow up his/her write-ups to any part of the world and explain where necessary, to clarify certain terms if not issues that have set the readers’ understanding against the writer’s intention. Recently, the Boss of the apex bank in Nigeria (Mr. Sanusi Lamido) was summoned by both the two chambers of legislature to explain a controversial statement concerning a budget quota for the national assembly, which he passively mention in a paper presented to a group of Nigerians. While the statement was found to be correct in some sense, the media reframed it in a way that triggered public reactions which they (legislators) believed, if not explained, will cause chaos and set the public against them. The governor of the apex bank came up instead of denying the statement, accepted it and the legislators rather rebuffed his language terms and try to put it more subtle in a manner that will confuse the masses and put a stall on negative reactions from the public. This issue dominated media captions within that period and took days to settle. This is a typical example as well as one of the several troubles of communication in which the writer’s intention is prone to either being misunderstood or deliberately tilted to suit other meanings that can cause tension against the literally expressed words.

However, visual art (a piece of painting, sculpture or a poster) communicates in a manner that also gives the artists very little opportunity to explain to his audience what he/she really means. In this way, the artist can only wish that the piece of art work he/she creates is understood and communicate the ideal message as intended. For example, in 1994, a piece of art work (In The Grave By Mu’azu Sani) exhibited in a university located in the northern part of the country almost resulted into a religious riot. The piece of work was made with inscriptions which suggest oneness of humanity (especially Nigerian peoples) irrespective of their religious differences. Considering the volatile nature of the Muslims -Christian relationships, harsh reactions followed the exhibited work and this led to the closure of the university library (the exhibition venue) for three days. Although the artist probably did not expect such a reaction but that did not undermine the fact that the message was well communicated. That is the power of visual art communication. The message may not go down well with some people yet it can not be stopped; rather, a mere looking at it trigger a feeling of either accepting a change or resisting a change or even changing an existing norm, practice or belief in the society.

Unfortunately, many people keep looking at wrong things in a work of art or allow the conveying attributes such as colour, forms, or the even the beautiful frames to limit them from getting the main message of the art work. A work of art being it a painting or sculpture (no matter how small or big) carries certain message. In ability to read the message by an individual may grossly hinder communication and eventually pushed the artist’s intention against an intended change which the work is to influence. For an individual to understand the message in visual art communication, he/she must view the whole works in totality as well as consider the meaning of the motif, forms, shapes, and also try to link the colours on the body of the art work in order to know their significance. For example, most African societies have certain motifs that once represented in artistic format, trigger communication on a traditional mode in an unmistakable way than it will ordinarily seem. In view of this, an artist who produces a painting with stool motifs on it in Ashanti kingdom is suggestively communicating the ideals of kingship.

Also, communication in visual art is continuous and ageless (transcending periods) such that a single work of art like painting can successfully serve different generations with different interpretations according to situations that suit the current society’s demands. For example Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, has been differently written about, such that the current interpretations offered by today’s art historian writers are somehow not the same with reactions of the early writer on the same work. Hence, the views held about an age-long piece of art keeps changing to suit current interpretations of art to that particular generation. In visual art communication some messages are not easily understood while others are easily communicated. It is required that one establishes a personal relationship with a work of art by critically observing its constituents parts before communication can take place. Otherwise the message in art will remain uncommunicated against the intended positive change which the artist want to influence.

Source by Kunde Terkura Matthew

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