Paintings as “Visual Poetry”: Diagrammatic Iconicity in the Art of Juan Miró

Hsin-yen Chen, I-wen Su


Conceptual Metaphor Theory (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980) and work on multimodal metaphors (Forceville, 2006) has opened up a new approach to the study of language and other modalities. However, relatively few cognitive linguistic investigations of visual art have been performed. We analyzed paintings done by Spanish Surrealist Juan Miró (1893-1983), focusing on diagrammatic iconicity, i.e. how his pictorial elements are arranged structurally in ways that correspond to their meaning. In particular, we examined the artist’s paintings between 1940 and 1970, based on the model advanced by Hiraga (2005). Our results show that iconic mappings like SIMILARITY IN MEANING IS SIMILARITY IN FORM, MORE CONTENT IS MORE FORM, and SEMANTIC RELEVANCE IS CLOSENESS, function as cognitive principles prevalent in these paintings. The current study therefore supports the proposal that diagrammatic iconicity operates across different semiotic systems, and at the same time contributes to the description and explanation of artistic practices involving language and painting.

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