Symbol Interpretation in Visual Communication: Analyzing a Suprematist Panting “The Black Square” in terms of Intentionality


Symbols are often used in visual communication; in particular they prevail in the abstract visual arts. Their interpretation is not always a simple task. Some cases of symbols cannot be interpreted using the traditional approaches. The purpose of this paper is to present an intentionality based idea of the symbol, and to describe the way of its interpretation. The symbol is proposed to be grounded on the term of the tangential intentionality. The latter implies that a thought of the perceiver of the sign is directed toward “not the signified object”. As a case of such a symbol, a painting The Black Square by K. Malevich is analyzed and an attempt of its interpretation proposed. Arguments supporting the proposed way of interpretation, including analysis of the statements of Malevich, are described. This painting marked the beginning of the non-representational art and made a great influence on the modern design. Now it costs more than one million dollars, however, discussions on its meaning and real value still continues.