绘画与符号学

Translated title of the contribution: Painting and Semiotics

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)

Abstract

绘画是否符号? 这是一个颇具争议的问题,但如果说绘画经常使用符号,似乎没有太多人反对。从这个意义上讲,符号学对绘画的制作和欣赏应该有所帮助。当然,符号学内部流派林立,对认知绘画的贡献大小不一。例如,索绪尔结构主义理论过于关注符号的相互关系,且忽略非语言符号的作用,因而在解读绘画时往往显得苍白无力或者牵强附会。反之,皮尔士的逻辑学十分重视主体思维活动,尤其是相似性和指示性推理,为我们理解绘画带来不少启迪。总的来说,绘画在很大程度上有赖于再现体与客体之间的相似性,但这只是解读绘画的第一步,要把握具体作品的深刻含义,我们还需通过指示性或像似性推理,将被再现的客体置于相关文化背景之中。由于后者较前者更具任意性,作者的创作意图未必能够在观者的解读过程中得以实现,符号学的任务即尽可能减少这两者之间的偏差。

That "paintings are signs" is a very controversial statement, but if we say that “paintings often make use of signs”, everyone seems to agree. To this extent, semiotics, which studies the life of signs, can be helpful to our understanding of pictorial art. There are of course different schools of thought under the umbrella of “semiotics” and not all of them can deliver an equal contribution to our effort in that direction. Saussure's structuralist theory, for example, focuses on the internal relationships between signs and neglects the important role of non-linguistic signs, hence its lack of explanatory power when confronted with visual texts. In contrast, Peirce's theory of logic is attentive enough to subjectivity in semiosis, especially in the form of indexical and iconic reasoning, which holds great potential for helping us better understand the operation of painterly signs. Put simply, painting as a special form of human communication relies heavily on iconicity between “representamen” and its “object”, but this is only the first step on our way towards the hidden meaning of a visual text. To achieve the latter goal, we also need, often but not always through indexical reasoning, make connections between a painting and the socio-historical context in which it is produced and received. Compared with iconic correspondences, indexical relations are far more arbitrary and therefore extremely difficult to reconstruct. The task of semioticians is to help reduce the gap between the creation of a painterly sign and its reception to the best of their ability.
That “paintings are signs” is a very controversial statement, but if we say that “paintings often make use of signs”, everyone seems to agree. To this extent, semiotics, which studies the life of signs, can be helpful to our understanding of pictorial art. There are of course different schools of thought under the umbrella of “semiotics” and not all of them can deliver an equal contribution to our effort in that direction. Saussure's structuralist theory, for example, focuses on the internal relationships between signs and neglects the important role of non-linguistic signs, hence its lack of explanatory power when confronted with visual texts. In contrast, Peirce's theory of logic is attentive enough to subjectivity in semiosis, especially in the form of indexical and iconic reasoning, which holds great potential for helping us better understand the operation of painterly signs. Put simply, painting as a special form of human communication relies heavily on iconicity between “representamen” and its “object”, but this is only the first step on our way towards the hidden meaning of a visual text. To achieve the latter goal, we also need, often but not always through indexical reasoning, make connections between a painting and the socio-historical context in which it is produced and received. Compared with iconic correspondences, indexical relations are far more arbitrary and therefore extremely difficult to reconstruct. The task of semioticians is to help reduce the gap between the creation of a painterly sign and its reception to the best of their ability.
Translated title of the contributionPainting and Semiotics
Original languageChinese (Simplified)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
Journal中国比较文学
Volume2020
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

此文是国家社会科学基金项目“艺术 符号学的当代建构研究” (项目号 19AZW005) 的阶段性成果。

Keywords

  • 绘画
  • 符号学
  • 索绪尔
  • 结构主义
  • 皮尔士
  • 像似性推理
  • 指示性推理
  • painting
  • semiotics
  • Saussure
  • Structuralism
  • Peirce
  • indexical reasoning
  • iconic reasoning

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