Semiotics–Examples: Images of Nature In Some Landscape Paintings & Ads Source: email 把漂亮的美景送給你
Outline • Two paintings before the 19th century
Cabbage, melon and cucumber by Juan Cotán 1602 (Ref. 1. textbook 29) How are ‘natural’ objects of food presented? Do they look ‘real’?
Cabbage, melon and cucumber by Juan Cotán 1602 --both near and far away (Ref. http://www.kfki.hu/~arthp/html/s/sanchez/cotan/stillife.html ) • Near – “. . . on [the parapet] the slice of melon and the cucumber are placed so that they jut over slightly and thereby they seem to be almost within reach - a trompe l'oeil effect that was particularly popular in Netherlandish painting in the 17th century. • Distanced – “the isolation of each object, heightened further by the black background, makes each of them seem extremely artificial and lends them a monumental, almost sculptural gravity. The centre of the picture is empty and the arrangement seems coincidental; the dimension of the painted picture is denied. The disturbing evocation of the painted picture is the main theme.
Jean Honore Fragonard “The Swing” (1767) • How are the characters related to each other? And to the garden background?
19th Century –Nature as the Rustic and the Sublime -- • Symbolizing one’s growth or that of the empire • Nature as the Rustic – John Constable and Homan Hunt; Jack Turner (1) • Nature as Sublime: Jack Turner (1) • Nature in decline: Holman Hunt
John Constable“The Cornfield” 1826 • Apparently realistic only, but actually not about harvest; • e.g. sheep not sheared; dog in the wrong direction; only two workers; • The actual focus: the boy (Cf. 吳雅鳳)
John Constable“The Cornfield” 1826 • Popular among middle-class collectors of prints; • collected in English Landscape Scenery with the line “Respiciens rura, laremque suum” (Ovid, 回首鄉間與家園)
John Constable“The Valley Farm” 1835 • The New Gallery of British Art 1884「它就像是在任何山陵樹叢可以的鄉間隨處可見的房舍……The Valley Farm 在全世界都有代表，只要是有英語的地方…如此一來，英國的血脈在全世界都能開花結果…」 • （Cf. 吳雅鳳﹚
Joseph Turner “Snow Storm: Hannibal Crossing the Alps” (1812) • http://saucyjack.phys.columbia.edu/sjk/catalog/turner_hannibal.jpg
Turner; Joseph “Crossing the brook” • Two girls crossing the brook; • The bridge as a connection between nature and civilization; • The cave –darkness or the maternal space in nature. • Direction of progress ?
William Holman Hunt (as a contrast) Our English Coasts (later renamed the painting "Strayed Sheep")
A Contrast to “Our English Coasts” • Away From The Flock by Damien Hirst from his “Natural History” series, the works involving the animals preserved in formaldehyde(甲醛) • Damien says, "I want to make people feel like burgers. I chose a cow because it was banal” • 1994 glass, steel, formaldehyde, lamb (37¾ x 58½ x 20 in) • (intro: http://dh.ryoshuu.com/biography.html)
Three positions in reading a myth or an ad 1. producer of advertisement -- focus on an empty signifier, let the concept fill the form of the myth without ambiguity; use a simple system of equation, where the signification becomes literal again: the Negro who salutes = French imperiality 2. reader of advertisement: an inextricable whole made of meaning and form, amazed at its greatness, absorb its messages willingly.
Three positions in reading a myth or an ad 3. Critic: clearly distinguishes the meaning and the form, and consequently the distortion which the one imposes on the other, I undo the signification of the myth, the saluting Negro becomes the alibi of French imperiality.
elements of an ad. • 1. the slogan (or copy) • 2. the visual image--with the slogan, it implies a story • 3. supplementary --color, design == where the product, the words are placed • colour, • size and position, • texture • celebrity endorsement
Typical signs in Ads’ languages ---- examples from Ways of Seeing • The romantic use of nature (leaves, trees, water) to create a place where innocence can be found. (example 1) • The posed taken up to denote stereotypes of women: serene mothers (madonna), free wheeling secretary (actress, king's mistress), perfect hostess (spectator-owner's wife), sex-object (Venus, nymph surprised), etc. • The special sexual emphasis given to women's legs.
Ads’ languages -- from Ways of Seeing (2) • The materials particularly used to indicate luxury: engraved or shining metal, furs, polished leather, etc. • The physical stance of men conveying wealth and virility. • The equation of drinking or car and male success and power. • The man as knight (horseman) become motorist.
Examples: • Woman and Nature = carefree, open, relaxing; Supported by the dress, Gesture, and, definitely, the cigarette. Where is the distortion?
Examples: • What are the signs used? Their connotations? Where is the distortion?
Examples for analysis: nature, gender & identity 3. 無限年輕﹐統一冰紅茶。 Sign: 天山天池；ballet skating; red vs. white ice 4. 凝望你﹐把我的世界打開﹐讓你進來。Samsung, 讓夢想成真。 Signs: castle, well-ornamented stairway, palace-like mansion, evening gown. 5. 真情相待﹐一生相隨﹐中華汽車。
Key words for Structualist and Semiotic approaches: • I. Following language as a model • II. Disclosing the deep/basic structure of a text, which is a (combination or selection) system of meaning composed of basic elements such as:
-- binaries, or semiotic rectangles, • -- roles/actant and functions, • -- mytheme, • -- narrator- narratee, • -- signs or signification on different levels (signifier and signified).
Questions: • Reductive? Disregarding meaning, textual complexities, or the author’s intention? • De-centering, dehumanizing? • Do we really think in terms of binaries?
Extensions and Connections: • How is our social existence modeled after language as a system of relations? • From work to text (textuality); (e.g. Internet and the world of ads) • From identity to system of relations; (e.g. kinship; gender) • From myth to ideology; • “Myth -- the complex system of images and beliefs which a society constructs in order to sustain and authenticate its sense of being.” • From structuralism/semiotics to postmodernism/poststructuralism (e.g. deconstruction –textual undecidability-- & postmodern self-reflexivity –everything is representation)
Assignments for next week 1. chap 5
Reference • 吳雅鳳〈建構家園：康斯德柏與克萊爾〉 《中外文學》 29 (2000.6): 6-48。（探討十九世紀初期英國的詩畫如何在「國家」的大脈絡下，建構「家園」的文化、藝術、空間概念﹚