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Visual Language: Can An Artist Create Their Own Language?

by Sandeep Biswas

Does the Artist create a Unique Language?

There is no expression without a language. The definition of the language and its uniqueness in the world of visuals can vary between the artists and their ongoing process.

After a lot of speculation I feel that language has a tremendous capacity to control the mind. Even an artist is a controller of their own personal perspective and expression. Art like any other expression is also based on the fundamentals of the artist’s human nature.

Artists consciously and subconsciously are constantly dealing with their emotions at every possible level, which are derived from their cultural and social backgrounds as well as their past and present circumstances . These emotions traverse through their actions of making art, trying to reach out and speak to the world around them.

Every movement in the process of the evolution of art, right from the first line that was drawn has also been responsible towards a further evolution of certain individualistic languages. This process of communication has become an introspection for their critics to decipher its purpose for centuries.

Somewhere it seems that even the use of material in art involves a language. This can make an artist’s making process and conceptual thinking to take a desired shape. The concept and the action becomes an enactment of the performance which defines into a meaning. Therefore the language, the methodology of practice and its context keeps changing over time, continuously replacing the modern with the contemporary. This continuous evolution over centuries has brought in a constant search for a present-day meaning and a deeper critical thinking, unendingly engaging the mind with a more unique and a powerful way to enrich the expression even centuries after a work of art was created.

In the world where vision created identity and identity created definitions, what must one believe in or not?

For years Rene Magritte’s Key of Dreams has inspired me to rethink the idea of a language. This has constantly made me question the perception of our existing realities.

Why does one need to understand or completely relate to something to experience its wonders and uniqueness? The joy of experience doesn’t need the tool of language, it just needs to remain an experience, which is not obliged to be understood, explained or justified.

This also questions if the unique language is a prerogative of the artists, that guides the viewer to comprehend them as a recreator of a vision. I would also love to distinguish the viewer as a unique experience for the artist.

Can the artistic expression be free of the boundaries of a definite and understandable language and it’s barrier?

Though I just cannot deny the fact that an artist needs a language which might give the viewer an unusual perspective towards the known and the accepted.

On the other hand, is a viewer obliged to understand every language ? Even in the physical and real world, some languages are completely understood and some only partially. Is it possible or even necessary to understand each and every tangible or intangible language? Is language and art only for the sake of its functionality, or can it be an expression of sometimes being dysfunctional, pushing one’s imagination beyond countless possibilities?

While we speak of the artist and their unique language, how equal is the role of the viewer or the audience who’s life will always have an influence from various backgrounds and a highly diverse environment?

In the quest for the adventure of probing the uniqueness in various ways while dealing with visual languages, the curious minds of the viewers has the capacity to trigger their memory, and evaluate their personal meaning in art.

How the language finds itself unique for the viewer depends upon their geography, history and fragments of the recollection of their respective lives.

Sometimes the meaning can be far more dominant and create a feeling of expanse rather than the language itself. The experience of the artwork can be much more profound than what was intended.

There seems to be no right or wrong in the visual world. We together are a diverse and unique experiences living in a harmonious and free world. We create out of everything which triggers our emotions, regardless of any expectations and interpretations.

To conclude this essay and to seek further answers, finally I reach out to a few established professionals connected to the world of art and and they graciously supported my essay through their own personal perspectives.

These quotes that I have borrowed from each is an attempt to demonstrate how the words can be derived out of a single lexicon, yet the connotation one is trying to decipher can be so diverse from person to person. They can support or even contradict every possible perspective towards a medium which is highly subjective and yearns to explore beyond the objective world.

Communication existed even before we realized its meaning. We gave it a shape, form and the numerous ways to understand and interpret them. This human creation called language remains an endless speculation, which keeps us thriving to continue our search towards our attempt to learn about the unknown. The artist here becomes an explorer in time and beyond.

Cover image: Trapped courtesy of Sandeep Biswas

(Republished with permission from the author Sandeep Biswas, Vasa-Project and Vasa Journal of Images and Culture where it was first published as the third essay of the thematic thread: "Can An Artist Create A Unique Language".)


Sandeep Biswas is a photographer, curator and mentor based in New Delhi, India. He did his Bachelor in Fine Art from the College of Art, Delhi, and then served as a visiting associate fellow with the photography department at Kyoto University of Art & Design supported by the Japan Foundation Fellowship. He is Curator (India) with Vasa-Project, QuarentenaGaleria, and Founder and Mentor of GrayScaleAcademy


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