Art is essentially visual such as sculptures, drawings, ceramics, painting or printmaking. Visual art in the modern world includes filmmaking, architecture, textile arts and performing arts. Art forms have been presented in societies for an extraordinarily long time. In its history art forms, artists have used art forms, especially visual artworks to convey messages, express emotions or provide meanings of phenomenon. Most of these visual art forms do not always represent their literal meanings, as they usually have hidden themes or meanings other than what the visual image says.
This paper analyses the use of visual artwork in societies, paying attention to a historical art forms that conveyed hidden meanings. Most historical art works were used to criticize or elaborate social issues such as politics, values or social problems. The paper has provided examples of four art works, including a September 11 photograph, and three historical paintings. Using art prevents conflicts between the artists and those they attack. It also gives a brief history of the development of art forms, especially visual art. This did not end in historical art forms, as even contemporary artists use visual images and the sight’s perceptual system as communicative modes. By analyzing the elements of visual art, its uniqueness from other communication modes and offering examples, the paper tries to explain why the perceived meaning and the political themes of an image is of more importance than the image itself. Because of this, an image’s interpretation is crucial for getting the intended message (Hugh, 2002, p. 61).
Western countries were the first developers of the field of art. At the beginning, it exclusively dealt with the high renaissance, European art history and its Greek precedent. Gradually, it covered global societies, and attempted to analyze artifacts in the basis of their cultural basis. Presently, art history includes all visual art forms such as paintings, filmmaking, and the textile industry. Ancient artists, especially from Greek utilized paintings and drawing to transmit information regarding the social, political and economic status of their societies, especially after the high renaissance. Some of the greatest visual artists include Pablo Picasso, David Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Jan Van Eyck.
The interpretations people make on pictures that have no words usually vary with when words are included. Visual arts educationists justify the uniqueness and exclusive nature of art in conveying messages. This is because the meanings humans express through visual forms lack literal equivalence in other communication forms. An individual can only have thought in a specific form, in which they will express it, thus making thought domain specific. Because of this, one cannot transfer the thought from one form to another, without distorting it. Visual art offers a human experience domain that is an extraordinary understanding and containing distinctive content. This is because it follows its own logic, relies on intrinsic visual qualities for justification and possesses unique visual features. Through visual images, it is possible to communicate or present facts in a way that they are verbally independent.
Visual art manages communication factors that language is incompetent in handling such as the visually salient essentials of communication subjects, together with their spatial relations. To understand the uniqueness of visual art, it is indispensable to examine the paradigms of fine art, where the artwork’s rationale lies within the art itself. All art’s elements ignore the fact that the sense of a sculpture or a painting always relies on the interaction between the art’s title, people’s prior knowledge of occurrences and the artifact. In this case, art’s formal elements referred to the image’s element, not its meaning. This is why people usually contextualize images in art galleries in terms of the theories other people have written about hem, the criticisms, histories and the language in the first reception into the gallery. The artists in the 1960s expected their viewers to minimalism and color paintings purely on the images itself (Archer, 2002, p. 98). They expected viewers to put aside any personal, economic, political or social consideration in favor of an exclusive emphasis on the image. To emphasize the use of the image itself for interpretation, some of the paintings lacked titles while others titles were deliberately uninformative.
The famous artists were outstanding artists to the society as prominent individuals requested their painting and sculpting services. These artists had a substantial impact on the societies, especially social and political functions. Their involvement in politics was enormous as they painted their sentiments, feelings and opinions as a way of communicating to the public and the leaders. One such artist is Pablo Picasso, whose substantial interest was how political issues affected human conditions. On his 1951 painting, Massacre in Korea, Picasso criticized the American intervention in the war, in Korea.
In the painting, Picasso shows a picture of two groups of people; a crowd of naked women, together with their children standing to the left while heavily armed naked knights are on the right. This picture represents Picasso’s mockery of the war. The knights’ helmets are misshapen, indicating their lack of sensibility. In addition to this, the Knights lack their manhood, a feature that the artist highlights with the women’s pregnant state. The picture is a representation of the soldier’s inability to produce human life, yet they destroy the very human life. The soldiers seem to have exchanged their manhood with war equipments. The artist highlights their inhuman nature by showing them direct war on women and children, who the society considers most vulnerable and harmless. Instead of protecting these people, the soldiers seem ready to attack them.
Another painting to emphasize the subject of visual art is Francisco Goya’s painting, the third of May. The painting centers on two groups of men; firing squads and captives, facing each other closely, with a small lantern in between them. The victims include a monk, some dead men and one man with his arms raised in an appeal. This picture serves to contrast the soldier’s approach to war, and the irregularities of war as it targets the innocent member of society. The soldiers have no regard for religion or the harmless people. Since Goya did the painting at the time of resisting Napoleon’s rule, the victims could have been resisting Napoleon’s armies. The painting highlights the injustices in the society at that time as it shows the soldiers killing innocent, unarmed people.
The most recent photograph with controversial social meaning is Thomas Hoepker’s picture of New Yorkers having a good time, and watching the city’s twin tower burn down. Thomas Hoepker took the picture on September 11 2001, showing five New Yorkers chatting as a cloud of smoke gather in the sky following the attack in Manhattan (Jones, 2011, p. 5). In between the people and the burning building there is brilliant clear water. The history of this picture is torturous as it questions the morality of New Yorkers, as they seem to have moved on so fast after the attack and how their memories fade fast. The people he photographed represents New Yorkers, who seem aware that something is wrong, they remain untouched. They represent the life and spirit in New York, where events touch people yet it fails to create much significance in their lives. The society and nation fails to learn and prevent such occurrences as they only get shocked once they occur, then forget about them immediately.
Finally, is Picasso’s other painting, Guernica 1937, which was his response to Guernica’s bombing (Arnheim, 2006, p. 17). It shows war tragedies and the suffering war has on innocent people and animals. It is a painting of suffering people and animals, with buildings engulfed by chaos and violence. There are human skulls, bulls, horses and people in a small room, destroyed.
There are other art works that artists us to convey hidden messages about societies. These include novels, movies, songs, sculptures and architecture. An example is a novel, the Charterhouse of Parma, which narrates the story of a young Italian boy, to his death. The novel captures historical dissonance, as it narrates the boy’s willingness to fight for Napoleon, but instead of experiencing a courageous moment, the boy only experiences meaningless and random war experiences.
Visual art form claims it origin from the west, where it slowly developed from the time of the high renaissance with artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Pablo Picasso. Origianlly, it only included European art history but with time, it encompassed global societies and included various art forms such as sculpting and drawings, other than just writing. Visual arts rely on the viewer’s interpretation and translation of art’s elements. Visual artists relay their thoughts in pictures, thus using them to communicate. It is a unique way of communicating as it depends on its own logic, intrinsic values and distinctive content, to make people understand it. Its independence from verbal communication and language also makes visual art unique.
The paper has analyzed the rationale of visual art, isolating it from other forms of communication, especially the use of words and language by emphasizing on its uniqueness. By understanding the paradigms of visual art, one finds it easy to understand the uniqueness of the art itself. To make the understanding of visual art, and its historical use in social and political perception, the paper has provided examples of contemporary and ancient art that depicts inner meanings of images. People have come to understand that the perceived meaning of a piece of work is much more important than the image itself. Therefore, obtaining the right interpretation is as fundamental to an artist as the perception of the image itself. A viewer may find clues to the intended meaning by using the title, prior knowledge of the image, or the social context in which the artists painted the image.
Visual art has been useful over the ages, as a form of communicating ideas, messages, and social happenings. Most ancient artists used art to criticize political leadership and societal inequalities between leaders and their subjects. Visual art usually have meanings other than what they physically represent. The paper has given meanings to four different visual art forms, showing the tricks these artists use to convey messages. They include Pablo Picasso’s paintings; Guernica and Massacre in Korea, Goya’s painting, the third of May, and a photograph on September 11 by Thomas Hoepker. In addition, the paper has added a novel illustrating historical dissonance in the society. Artists use different forms of artwork to convey messages and perception of social issues and avoid open conflicts with their subjects. Most ancient artists concentrated on political themes on their pieces.