As impressive as technology is you must never forget that language is the first and most primary of virtual worlds. Life experience is translated into language after the fact and then exists in the mind as a virtual world. But words are not the world as our Zen brothers teach, or not identical to the world as Philosophers tend to phrase it.
Symbols replicate externalities we assign them to and this enables us to shuffle them in our minds eye like a deck of cards. This is such a simple and obvious, yet overlooked fact, that the Sages of India describe this error as the great secret of the Brahmans. A mistake everyone falls for. Or is encouraged to fall for.
Language is dependent upon an agreed to commonality of terms that finds rare concordance in the physical world. As if every eye sees exactly the same shade of gray! If gray sums up a general sense of varying hues of grayness sufficient for agreement how difficult is it when we throw around terms like justice, god, truth, fairness… evil?
Artists rightly resort to metaphors, parables, myths, symbols and ritual to communicate the profoundness of their experiences. What in fact is a scientific theory but a complex artistic metaphor distinguished as scientific only when it is sufficiently reduced to mathematical equations… and thereby capable of evolution into an efficient physical method? A method, of course, that works for everyone. A truth you might say.
Language and art join as seductive bedfellows in the service of the creative arts, education and propaganda. It is the awareness of this, during the Latin years in Europe, that Politicians, Priests and Revolutionaries were referred to as Enchanters. Many such traditional meanings are now lost to the general public consciousness. You may even conclude that what was once conscious from Egypt to Athens and Rome to the Renaissance, has become embedded in the garden of our collective subconscious. This collective, occulted subconscious pool, in which the Artist hunts, is symbolized by the Egyptian bird IBIS, motionless in meditation, on one leg, poised to retrieve elusive artifacts swimming just below the surface.
When you observe distant snow covered peaks in a painting do you think of the cold abstraction of higher mathematics? When a wallet adorns a figure is it for credit cards, fiat currency, or is it a purse containing memories?
When the head of state places a red rose in memoriam for victims of a terror event is he paying respect... or is he indicating that a shared conspiratorial secret is safe.
If you see water dripping into a pool do you fathom the union of male and female energies? Is that a stream of water represented in a painting? Or a stream of consciousness?
Is that bridge a path way of convenience? Or the connecting link between outer experience and inner illumination?
Do two naked figures imply carnal inclination or a transparent sincerity requiring no veils of separation between them?
Such are the tools the Artist employs in speaking to the Casual Observer of the Creative Landscape.