Join Date: May 2006
Jim, there is very obscure symbolism and iconography in most traditional cultures and the art of those cultures.
For example, most of the art of the Renaissance and the Middle Ages was religious art, and it is all loaded with iconography:- you see a rose, there is a message, you see a lily, there is a different message. Even into the 19th century some artists were still using the symbolism from the past, probably not as often, nor as cleverly, but it did crop up.
When we involve ourselves in attempts to understand the art and design motifs of past societies, we need to be able to think in a way that is in tune with the people from the society that we are attempting to come to terms with. In the case of a society that is based in Hindu religion and the attendant culture, we are really quite fortunate, because apart from sources authored by Hindu people themselves, we have a lot of material that was authored by the British, many of whom were captivated by Hindu culture.
However, any iconography can only apply within the context to which it is related. If we see little upwards pointing triangles in a Hindu context, we know exactly what we are looking at, always dependent upon context, but if we see a line of those little triangles cut into cloth on the kitchen table, well, all we might be seeing is the result of somebody using pinking shears.
Similarly, if we see a line of those little VVVVVV on a Hindu weapon, we know how to approach an understanding of them within a Hindu context, but if we see those VVVVVV in a different context we may only be looking at an ornamental motif. The ornamental motif may have been inspired by religious iconography, but removed from its original context it no longer has the original meaning.
Just as a rose in 21st century pop art is simply a rose