Iconology & Art Nouveau

This after we had a lecture I found quite interesting based on Iconology and Art Nouveau with Dr Anna Powell.

Iconology means looking instead of seeing. It is when the meaning in visuals isn’t always as obvious and it seems so we use evidence in the picture to unlock the meaning instead. Sometimes these can be metaphors, meaning an object can stand for something else other than it’s physical value. E.g, an onion could stand for tears as it can brings tears to your eyes when cutting in literal form. A way to decode images is to think what genre are we looking at or why type of text? Then you have to think further; what else is there? You need to read between the lines. What is the evident detail? A point to bear in mind when following this method is that it is possible to over read as it doesn’t always work. This will enable you to create your own interpretation and theories of the meaning behind art.

An example we looked at during this session is Jan Van Eycks ‘The Arnolfini Wedding Portrait’ 1434 which is referenced in the intro to the TV series ‘Desperate housewives’ along with many other iconographic associations such as Adam and Eve. The TV intro shows how iconography can be used in the modern day. The painting is very popular amongst theorists as there are so many different ideas about what the portrait actually means.


First, looking at this painting you can see a man and a woman. This is thought to be Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini; a wealthy merchant, and his wife. The second thing you see is that the woman appears to be pregnant. Looking further you begin to notice that the couples aren’t wearing their shoes, the reflection in the mirror, the dog, and the single lit candle. There are endless features of this painting which give open potential to analyse the iconology. After picking out the little things in the painting, we can then begin to ask why? The clothes and decor and very intricate suggesting the couple are wealthy, this is an obvious thought. But thinking deeper; there is a single lit candle which is odd when it is day light. Some people believe this represents that God is always watching and is present in the room. Another theory is to suggest life. It is believed that Arnolfini’s wife passed away at least by 1433 and so this could be to signify a tribute to her, the lit candle been on his side, while the candle above his wife is out. Another icon in the painting is the mirror. At the time, it would have been impossible to have such a big mirror as the tools and technology wasn’t invented to be able to produce it. Ignoring this fact, some people believe it suggests clarity and purity. If you pay attention to smaller detail around this, there is imagery from the Passion of Christ in the detail showing a spiritual and religious side. In the reflection of the mirror you can see the door way, in which too people are standing facing the couple. To this day no body knows who the other two people are, but by the couples gestures  (Arnolfini appears to be holding his wives hand, possibly blessing her, while moving his hands in the sign of the cross), this suggests that this is some kind of ceremony which is where the painting got it’s name from. The two people could be family, or the artist, or the audience. The final point I am going to make on this painting is based on the roles of the gender. In those times, woman were painted to made to look like porcelain dolls. This is because they are seen more for their beauty and to be gracious, as the man has far more detail in his face giving his a more real life appearance. The fact that the woman is stood nearer the bed and the man nearer the window suggests that the womans place was within the home while the man had a life outside the home. Below are a couple video’s where you can listen to others idea of the theory behind the painting.

Another example of iconography is Santa Claus. Many people believe that Coca Cola revolutionised his outfit to make people believe he wore red, however this idea began long before then. St Nicholas originally wore a green coat and literally had claws like a monster. Looking back to older version, nowadays it would be very difficult to recognise him without his red suit although he still wears his belt and clothing the same way. Over the years people have manipulated his image to become something more jolly and exciting to children. We now recognise him from his ‘traditional’ red suit and rosy red cheeks.


Looking at a more modern day example of semiotics is The Beetles album covers. The ‘Abbey Road’ cover has a few icons you could read into, although most are just theories and not proven. For example, the oddly placed Beatle car; Some people believe this was coincidence that this was parked there, however others believe that the 281F on the reg plate means that if Paul McCartney was still alive he would have been 28 years old on the release of the album. There are other things to pick up such as been shoeless and the cigarette in the right hand when he was left handed. People have made many suggestions over these. The ‘Sgt Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band’ album is also rumoured to have hidden iconography. The cover actually has 88 people featured, including the band members, cardboard cut outs and wax sculptures, it took a long time to gather everyones permission for the making. Some theorists suggest that all the people used in the photograph are very successful and loved by many, however this doesn’t mean they feel it and may sometimes feel lonely sometimes.

Moving onto Art Nouveau. Art Nouveau was a very brief art movement that ran from the early 1890’s to the start of WW1 and had a very high impact. It was known as the ‘new style’ and influenced all elements of life from furniture, architecture, jewellery and poster design. It was popularised by the German magazine ‘Jugend’ translating to ‘youth’.


We looked at several popular examples of Art Nouveau to enable to pick out the similarities in the designs. Using examples by Peter Brehrens ‘The Kiss’ 1898, Henry Van De Velde, Alphonse Mucha and Aubrey Beardsley (who was said to be one of the most controversial Art Nouveau figures at the time) , we can analyse that the style consists of black outlines, themes of nature and flowing lines, woman figures and resistance of geometric shapes and lines.

At the time the Arts & Crafts movement was very popular, particularly a guy called William Morris who I’ll be looking at later. They believed in traditional art methods (use of hand crafts). People began to notice that not all art was accepted and some was even rejected from galleries. A group formed that believed they could combine all types of crafts such as woodwork and painting, they thought they could align all arts onto the same level. The german term ‘gestamtkunstwerk’ was often used which translates to ‘the total work of art’.

From 1898-1903 Ver Sacrum (a magazine) was published. It is latin for ‘sacred spring’. At the time is was thought to be ground breaking and innovative as it promoted the Art Nouveau movement and used pioneering techniques such as typography styles and the grid system. Back then, most publications were the same size, but the Ver Sacrum broke free of this and use a square format.

Art Nouveau is very much still a large influence in todays design. Some of it’s characteristics returned in the psychedelia movement such as the curvy lines and typography. It was an influence in Gaudis ‘House of Bones’ and Cathedral in Barcelona. It is even reflected in tattoo design, anime, posters, and photography, – especially the female figure surrounding with flowing lines. It is also believed by some people that Starbucks and Coca-Cola have adapted it into their logo’s.

Anthony Burrill: Oil & Water Do Not Mix


Anthony Burrills screen print ‘Oil & Water Do Not Mix‘ is a prime example used in Dr Anna Powells lecture of semiotics. The print was actually made using washed up oil and sand on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico after the disaster. His idea gave a very strong message, not only in the actual text but the use of media supports this too. Using the oil and sand was a physical example to represent the contrast between the substances. It is quite powerful using contrast to show the seperation of the substances.

Darren Raven: Blogging and Tips for Essays

In todays lecture with Darren we recapped on effective ways to help us generate points when essay writing. One tool we use is the geometric idea generation tool. This is where on each point we have ‘who, what, when, where, why, how’ questions, and in the centre we have the topic or the question. This helps us to find points to write about and analyse in our writing. The second tool we learnt about was ‘PEE’ which means ‘Point, Example, Explain’. This gives us a clear template on how how to set out our paragraphs. We then watched a video by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu to test this tool out. Pamyu Pamyu is a japanese singer who’s videos are very strange and obsure. Darren picked her work out especially as she has so many points that we can pick out to be interesting or unusual.

The point I picked out to be unsual in this video is the onion with the face. To start with, onions do not have faces. However, this onion had googley eyes and become a background singer in the song, what made it even more unusual was it later transformed into a much bigger onion with a crown and a beard. Somehow, this onion seemed to have gained power and the main singer didn’t like this. Towards the end after the very cheerful atmosphere, she whipped out a machine good and began firing it at the King Onion. This could represent how the onion had been background noise to her, and then suddenly rised to fame and became more moreful than her. She was jealous of the fame of the onion and wanted to take it down.

This is a very farfetched example of using the PEE tool, however it is just to show how easily it can be used to theorise things. There were many points I could have picked out in this video from running with toast in her mouth to the numbers of the faces on the backing dancers, and I could easily have summerise and thought of an meaning behind them. This is something I should think about when writing essays in the future.

As blogging is essential not only for educational purposes (to be assessed), but to also get yourself out there in the creative industry and enable people to find you. In last weeks session we were asked to make three lists; what we like about blogging, what we dislike, and what strategies to help us become more effecient.

Things I like about blogging:

  • Been able to keep a documentation of my progress to reflect on
  • Been able to look back quickly on tutorials / other work
  • Having access to others in the same field
  • Quickly been able to record something
  • Always having work accessable rather than carrying a physical peice

Things I dislike about blogging:

  • Difficult to keep up to date
  • Time consuming
  • Having to pay to be able to customise blog fully

Strategies to become more effecient in blogging:

  • Draft notes to type up later rather than jotting in books
  • Make time each day to update it
  • Scan work in after each progress

Researching Dialect & Accents

My initial idea I am hoping to develop for my Conversation project is to create a series of illustrated typography designs which reflect how someone has said something. I want to be able to show the tone, accent and essence of the speech and so I have researched into how colour, type, and design can say something with meaning. Now I want to look into dialect and the difference against accents. This is because I when someone reads my typography piece, I want them to read it in the exact way it was spoken. Here I have found a clear explanation of the difference between the two meanings:

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 17.33.57

If you would like to see an example of this, I found plenty on the Dialect Blog. Here basically holds a library of various accents and dialects, explaining each with text and info graphs. This could come in very useful in this project and there is so many different aspects they talk about. After clearing up the meanings, I will be researching into people’s accents and translating them into the most appropriate dialog. As I am originally from Barnsley, I know my accent pretty well. Yorkshire appears to have their own humorous language due to how strong it often comes across. This gives me plenty of quotes, sayings and figures of speech to think about. I will also be going out into busy public areas and listening to the accents around me, jotting them down for inspiration and research purposes. I feel this will be a good area to base it around as my University is also based in Yorkshire, giving me a wide target market that will be able to relate to my work.

E4 E-Sting: Poster Development


These are my developed design idea’s for the E-String poster project. Although I don’t feel very confident about working with 3D programming, I have decided to take on the challenge of the left hand design. I feel it has much more character to the image as the typography fits in with the food theme (it is supposed to look like sauce/ketchup). This will allow me to also experiment with using different textures and surfaces in Cinema 4D, such as adding shine for a liquid effect. The right hand side would have been much easier to create a blocky text, however I feel it isn’t as unique, wacky or powerful as the other design. I am looking forward to the next E4 workshop with Jay when I will be able to begin building my final design idea digitally.