You are on page 1of 4

Justice and Its Symbols An AESTHETIC interpretation of symbols.

by Victor De Circasia

In the visual arts an understanding of the aesthetic enables a person to intensely


see and value the beauty of representation. Art stands for a driven purpose to
describe reality and the unconscious, the structured and the abstract thoughts.

People of different races, religions, nationalities together have their own set of
representational elements, a set of coded symbols and the desire to understand
each other. Understanding art iconography or a symbol requires constant repetition
and an experience of the symbol expressed in the written language or in verbal
communication which sometimes is accompanied by the assertion of gestural symbols
that allows us to have the perception of meaning. In many cases those elements
mentioned are only particular to one society or group.

Justice, the making of one judgement, is the gathering of opposite elements


positive and negative, a fair analysis of good and bad or correctness and in
correctness. However, art can convey conflict as an equivalence and can represent
the differences between ideas. This allows society to communicate and contemplate
beyond the surface and to see further than the ordinary and everyday prejudices
and terminology.

Symbols have an important element and have a kind of ‘mystic’ authority and they
are as important for the Inuit people living in the arctic regions or for the
African people, for the Europeans or the Oriental. There are societies of people
who are confined to obey the elements and the strict imposition of rules; when to
go hunting or when to gather; when to harvest; when to cultivate. Art has tried to
record in symbols those particular elements important for the government in those
settlements. The ideas and constant contradictions between good and evil, the
positive and the negative, the centre and the inner circle as well as the concept
of the void are a powerful show of meaning and the basis of life for everyone in
the community.

We are always meeting these contradictions in contemporary western society and


dealing with words, sentences, instructions and mandates what we call law and
order the judgements of justice, the enactment of law, the conveying of a decision
that follows its own logic that comes or is part of a structure, a system. There
is a constant conflict, a struggle in many directions that we cannot try put aside
from the reality or have disdain for it. We fight with the world aggressively for
an identity for ourselves of what it is the concept of freedom.

The iconography of the symbol is a surprising and wonderful relation of reality


and inhibition of a concept, which is freely interpreted by the artist, giving it
a vibrant sense of life of a very abstract concept. Its intense expression seems
to withdraw inward into the wholesomeness and observes the reality while spinning
circles like in the Divina Comedia of Dante. The idea almost burst out from its
enclosed form and then thrusting forward from the reality and extending behind the
idea there is a concrete form with a wider perception. The symbol has a figuration
and a sensory experience and arouses intimate relations with our culture, a
metaphor easily recognized as a resource for figuring out a real presence beyond
the reason.

The most moving aspect of the symbol is the universality of the icon, the
interpretation and how, from the onset, there is a form or a thought from the
depths within. The graceful quality of the symbol is perceived as a desire to
embrace what is around it and what is relating to us and to the areas around the
significance of the symbol. Art is in the midst of a tendency by man to make the
world desirable and to put some harmony into it.
So the symbol does something very important—it gives form to and resolves the
collective significance of that enclosed meaning and manages to separate identity
and the nature of meaning in relation to a wide and unknown world. We see how the
artist successfully makes a one symbol, we understand ourselves and we relate to
that community society or culture more deeply.

This involves an active understanding on the part of the spectator. But that act
of understanding becomes an act of discovery, a removal of the ‘cover’ that hides
the truth. The empathy that the iconography speaks of is at the unambiguous
service of culture.

Almost every culture uses solar motifs. The sun as a giver of light and life is
considered to be an actual power of the universe, often associated with dominion,
glory, illumination and source of life on Earth. It sees everything with all-
seeing eye, thus has been the guarantor of justice and the source of wisdom.
Justice, in ancient times, has been represented by the sun, a human face in the
centre with radiating panels representing the sun’s rays that subsequently was
adopted in the western world with Christianity and the triangle eye of God. Later
were added few cabalistic symbols and some Latin inscriptions to give
universality.

The most striking forms of administrating justice which is used almost everywhere,
consists of a round or oval element with the imposing Judge or Magistrate or
tribunal in front and the opposing elements in the sides and the tail
constellation of the others at the back following the “eye design.”.

The shape of justice appears to all of us, bringing surprising unity to the
composition that is in many cases is vibrant, intense and has dramatic and rich
interplay and contrasting colours.

The forms representation and symbols of justice are abstract, [i]yet we see a
living being present in them with the use of the scales and the significance of
fair play in commerce applied to everyday judgement. Symbols look up expectantly
and are somewhat fearful to us. We can see justice parading with wide bands
blinding the figure and forming a parody of the blindness. The eyes are perhaps
beautiful but are insensitively reluctant to see and this conveyed symbol seems to
emerge from the bluntness of the interpretation with the motto that Justice is
equal for everyone. In some cases the symbol has also disagreeable expressions.
Perhaps the symbol does not like the world or the artist interprets reality with
disapproval.

The art representation of the symbol of justice often shows an image of orderly
structures, the negative and the positive, the believer is saviour or redeemer.
Society is based on rigid boundaries and laws between people of higher class and
lower class. We manage to identify universally the courts, the judges and the
icons of justice. It is against the society the way a person makes himself
different from anyone else in order to impose his will. The artist is structuring
the forms and brings something which socially can be acceptable and just. Symbols
in many cases submit their ambivalence to analysis; we only can understand these
symbols by searching through history to bring out a resounding significance of its
meaning.

Things are different in aesthetics, the artist is more individualistic and yet we
try to see oneness and not difference. Every work of art shows the association to
realities—and at the same time the subtle and tremendous difference, the drama of
difference that one can find among the communities of the world.
The aesthetic representation of justice is shown and depicted as what every person
hopes to feel: fairness, freedom etc. For the multitudinous identifications and
the difference and equality in aesthetics it maintains neutrality of forms alike.
In the beginning art finds reality as an awful, constant and surprising reminder
of survival. We hunt to eat, we scavenge to survive, we kill to defend and we
avoid confrontation to maintain a status quo. Disease, floods, droughts, and human
cruelty were all one element. And still today, people see the world as governed by
forces one cannot control which are at large and often seem irrational.

One of the most important things we learn about the meaning of primitive art is
that it deals equally with the relation of beauty and ugliness, but also the
relationship between the hunter and the community, the community and the relation
to the limited world around. The art representation in many cultures is about how
to see what we don’t see. The magical world of interpretation and the symbolic
representation of shapes, colours, lines, masses, the directions and what are
called the textures the volumes arranged in a certain way. We have learned that
the way to know aesthetically is trying to put opposites together. The opposites
of the world are in us and relate us to everyone and everything else.

Ancient societies did not anticipate the ‘divinity’ and primitive man continued in
other directions in order to express plastically this drama of fear before the
entire divine power. The shapes of justice are accentuated and exaggerated and
today reveal more the human form and neighbouring reality. Symbols are used to
make concrete the terror of man before supernatural powers and also the fear of
punishment, prison, isolation, death or the void.

The artist commenting on beauty or form has fought against fear and love to
represent ugliness and beauty, the grotesqueness and the form of the god or the
world that they saw with the purpose to give form to what is unkindness, disorder,
ugliness, meaninglessness. Giving form to the ugly, the unbearable, needs and
requires an immense courage to portray those conditions. In the arts the symbol is
often there giving form to disapproval but also a depiction of the ugly that makes
for beauty, the menacing intensity of the emotion, the general strict symmetrical
forms and its severity, the rectangular shapes appearing rather accented in their
meaning with regular geometric shapes. Also, the form, the body decorated and
portrayed in swirling patterns and contempt and respect, the wanting graceful form
correspond to ancient rites and symbols.

The study, the intensity and the calm form of a judiciary process is part of our
roots and civilization. The spirit of justice is thrusting through its evolution
and in the utmost conveys the ideas of equality and the most bitter reality and
defiance of the chaos. In parallel the iconography of justice show man’s attitude
to the god he felt was in the sky, in the water, in the forest, in himself.

Art, per se, is not logical or practical, nor determined to demonstrate a truth.
It does have a personal feeling that may also ensure a kindness as well as an
order and, in many cases, a perception of what is beneath the surface. Symbols in
society manage to embody hope and fear. Man needs to convey through representation
a depth of emotion and to look into the distance and affect what we see. The
symbol implies there is thought that is within and goes forth.

Aesthetic itself can’t show the way to interpret law and order and justice
representation, but in it includes an understanding of the human desire for inside
knowledge and respect for culture, which has for so many centuries shown a way of
seeing people’s cultural behaviour in their own context and not with our own
judgments.

We should conclude with the idea that the symbol is not a universal representative
of our culture and its ‘cryptic strengths’ of the iconography is not the same
entity even within the same society.