My example of complex imagery is Up in the Sky (no.1) (1997). I have always had a fascination with Tracey Moffatt’s work, so what better choice than to discuss one of her works in relation to complex imagery and Semiotics. What is Semiotics? It is the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation. A ‘signifier’ – the form which the sign takes; and the ‘signified’ – the concept it represents. Tracey Moffatt takes places and events from history and recreates them for contemporary photographs. She uses real historical events in her art making and changing their contexts to express her view of these events in her art. She is interested in new forms of technology and the idea of mass communications which allow us to have unparalleled access into another person’s private life.
So here we go, picking just one image of Moffatt’s to represent complex imagery was a little hard. However, I did Up in the Sky (no.1), this image raises questions, the photograph calls for a strong emotional reaction, referencing the Stolen Generation a still fresh wound in Australian history. Looking at what is exactly portrayed in the image – signifiers/denotations, we see a white woman, clutching a young child in her arms, looking on out the window. As nuns come towards the house. – Signifieds/connotations, looking at this image one could assume it is referencing past events in Australian history. Moffatt could be referring to both collective memory and that of her personal experiences of being a part of the stolen generation. The image raises questions about what the nuns out the window are coming for. In the photograph, we could see the woman as a poor white mother with a precious Aboriginal child clutched in her arms. The nuns seem more like witches. In perfect Semiotics theory, Moffatt’s artwork suggests we each come up with our own realities with the combination of personal memories and that of the culture we live in.