Scene4-International Magazine of Arts and Culture


David Wiley

The great number of written and spoken languages used by human society would indicate that language is our dominant form of communication. At a very early age we learn speech, followed soon thereafter by reading and writing and these are accepted as our basic means of learning, thinking and understanding, as well as expression. There are, however, many other forms of communication.

In the age of electronics and the internet we are given along with traditional language, numerous kinds of visual information. Visual aids to learning are nothing new, of course. Many things cannot be properly learned without visual aids. And here we are approaching the realm of art, which is another, and perhaps underappreciated, form of communication.

Humans have always been aware of art as a means of understanding themselves and the world they live in, although in an indirect and often symbolic way. Our written and spoken languages are abstract, symbolic, and in some cases metaphorical. Ernest Fenellosa, in his book, The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry, discusses this aspect of language as a means of artistic expression.

I have recently been attending some sign language classes with my niece, who seems to be serious about learning this fascinating form of visual communication. Sign language is in some ways similar to the Chinese written character, in that its gestures and formations resemble universally recognizable actions and things. Although names and certain objects have to be spelled out with the fingers, and the signs have to be memorized, signing is an apparently logical means of communication, such as we might use in a foreign country to "talk" with someone whose language we don't know.

Music has always been thought of as a universal language, as it expresses feelings common to all people. It is indeed an abstract language, insofar as it is non-specific. The same note means different things according to context. When music is combined with dance, as in ballet, a beautifully poetic and complex language emerges, a language so different from our spoken/written languages that we can only experience it as an art form affecting the deepest and most mysterious parts of our being.

As a painter, I have always thought of color as a language. Line and form are of course also a part of this language. Color in its almost infinite shades can well compare to music and our spoken and written languages, although, like the notes of music, colors are non-specific, and achieve meaning only in context. Which is not to say that a canvas painted solid red, for example, does not make a statement. In such a case the statement becomes subjective, something to be interpreted by the viewer.

Art in all its forms is a means by which we can better understand ourselves and our world. It is also a way of telling us that language is everywhere, that if we look and listen with all the power of our hearts and minds we can find meaning, understanding and inspiration in everything around us.

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David Wiley, painter-poet, exhibits throughout California and abroad. His painting and poetry appears monthly in Scene4 (q.v.) For more of his paintings, poetry and articles, check the Archives. To inquire about his paintings, Click Here.

©2018 David Wiley
©2018 Publication Scene4 Magazine




November 2018

Volume 19 Issue 6

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