Why Add Symbols to Painting?

Let’s consider symbolism today. What is a symbol? It’s a thing that represents something else. The thing it represents can be anything from an object to an idea. In renaissance times the works were filled with symbolic objects. Viewers of those works, understood what those symbols represented because they were universally understood at that point in time. However when we look at these works today we cannot fully understand them because we live in a different time space continuum. What does your subject symbolize?


Pix: Bergadder (Pixabay)

For example, a swan symbolized purity and dogs had the double symbolism of fidelity and seductiveness while a red carnation was a symbol of love, and pink carnations, represented marriage.


So why all this talk of symbolism. We still use symbols today, although a renaissance person may not recognise many of them. If you think about it - many road signs have symbols - arrows, silhouettes of kids and so on.


But what about your art? Does your art contain symbols. Are you using them consciously or unconsciously? If you aren’t using them, how might you use them? Even colour has symbolism attached to it. We can see this in the carnation example above - the same flower but with two different colours, has 2 very distinct meanings.


So the next painting you do, I ask you to think about why you are choosing your colour palette. Does it have an emotional connection to time and place? What else about that time and place resonates with you and what might you use to symbolise that? We all have items in our lives, which we have carried with us for many years. What are yours? Choose one or two and do a drawing or two of them. Put them in the context of their original place in your life, and then put them in a present day setting. What is the significance? How has it changed, if it has?

One of the symbols in my current work is a cherry blossom. Sometimes the flower itself occurs and at others there will just be a hint of the colour threading through the painting somewhere.


Work in progress - Deep Creek

Please share any interesting symbols you have used.....

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© 2018 Kadira Jennings​