You are on page 1of 4






Towards a semiotics of art


Lourdes Ayala

Guayaquil, February 2019


Charles Sanders Peirce was a wise American able to overcome the rationalism of his

time, writing thousands of pages about a variety of scientific, philosophical and metaphysical

issues. Its fruits begin to grow a century after its departure from this world where the human

being as a sign, whose purpose or purpose is creativity and growth, tries to discover the

mysteries of nature, through inferences. He was a contemporary, working independently

developed a theory of signs that I call "Semiotics"; his interest in disciplines such as

philosophy, logic, mathematics, and psychology led him to develop a symbolic logic.

In his search he was guided to find a universality of thought, from which it was

possible to understand the whole of the world. Sanders, known as one of the founding fathers

of semiotics, shared the honor with Ferdinand de Saussure, a contemporary linguist, who

proposed in his opinion the name of semiology. Indeed it differs from Saussure, because it did

not deal so much with the functioning of the language, but with more general aspects, the way

in which man knows reality. In effect, semiotics had to conform the frame of reference of any

investigation that allowed investigating the relation that the man establishes to the world.

Peirce says that "the sign is something that is for someone instead of something else,

its object, in some of its aspects creates in the mind of that person a more developed sign that

is its interpreting". That is, a sign is a mental representation through which someone can know

the objects of reality. According to this conception, the sign is a relation, where the entity

lacks importance. He adds that the sign consists of three components, since reality is a triad
and, consequently, his whole theory is based on systems and categories composed of three


The object: is the "portion" of reality that can be accessed through the sign. The

representative or sign: The representations of something, human beings access the "real"

world through a symbolic system. The representative would therefore be "the aspects of the

object", which we can get to know through a particular triad, but never the object in its

entirety. The interpreting: "The meaning of a representation can only be another

representation." This means that it is another sign that, now, is the sign that the representative

produces in the mind of the person.

Both the representative and the interpretant are mental entities, it is not, therefore,

tangible realities. It is about symbolic operations that we carry out with the object to

understand the world that surrounds us. Peirce maintains, moreover, that knowledge is

inferential, which means that one sign refers to another sign and this to another and so,

successively ... example, if we see the wet street; we infer that it has rained. For something to

be a sign of something else, that thing must already be a sign. This means that if a "blood

stain" can be read as a sign of "wound", then we must know the sign "wound", which must

have been previously constructed.

It is not possible to construct a sign for an object that is not a sign previously.

However, it is wrong to infer that, since every object of the sign is already a sign, then

knowledge always has as object knowledge and the reality before thought is inaccessible. In

effect, Peirce does not deny the existence of the world, but rejects the possibility of knowing

it independently of the signs.

Towards a semiotics of art

Pierce and his semiotic Central notions for a

contributions semiotics of Peircean art

Four basic aspects that the Pierce Four determining contributions

model provides of Peircean thought

Without the latter, knowledge

Originality in its definition of about the work of art is not
sign possible. It is a triad relationship

It allows understanding different

Classification that makes of the dimensions of the artistic piece
varieties of signs. from the sign, as the perception
or cualisígnica sensation.

The icon is interpretable.

The index, for its part, has a
Distinction of icon, index and connection relationship.
symbol The symbol encompasses a
multitude of objects, as a set of
variables. Direct, causal or nexus

Every process that refers to

The semiósis centuries develops or is driven
by them.

One of the most recurrent artistic semiotic

operations in contemporary art is that of
functionalization, a procedure that involves
the chaining of a series of signs based on
actions on the objects of material reality.