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Dalia Marija Saulauskaite „horizontality 1-4“

Semi-semiotic analysis


1. Discursive analysis.

An oblong work of leather artist Dalia Marija Saulauskaite consists of four rectangular boards of identical sizes, placed side by side to each other into a horizontal line. The boards have one important element in common: these are two straight lines on the top and underneath, repeating the horizontal side and forming a middle line. One more common element is coins or, to be more precise, the rows of coins, forming a regular string which fills up the middle part of the picture horizontally (both in each triangle and in all four of them together). These elements serve to repeat, link and extend the boards to each other eventually forming one finite work. Colours also play an important role: orange, black, blue and white colours used on the principle of contrast (opposition) both embody the boards and single them out.  Black and white (coins) as well as blue (cold) and orange (warm) also form a contrast of the brightest chromatic colours, because they are placed vis-à-vis and furthermost in the circle of the colour range as it is in this work. The first (1) triangle is all-over orange (background), while the mentioned two horizontal lines inside it are black; the second (2) triangle is black, while the lines inside it are orange; the third triangle (3) is also black but the lines are blue, and the fourth triangle (4) have blue background and black lines in it. The 1st and the 2nd triangles are linked by orange and black antithesis (both the backgrounds and lines are contrasting), as are the 3rd and the 4th triangles, which have black and blue colours in contrast. The 2nd and the 3rd triangles have black backgrounds in common, but there are contradistinguishing lines, while the 1st and the 4th triangles have black lines in common and contradistinguishing backgrounds. The circle is closed and colour coupling (or differentiation) may be continued endlessly by one or another principle. In addition, at closer range, we can see that the coins are situated heads up in some places and tails up in another ones. A closer look and some calculations will lead to a finding that some boards (1 and 3) have most coins fixed heads up and just a few of them have tails up, while other boards (2 and 4) vice versa – there coins with tails up are prevailing and only a few of them have heads up. By the way, in this work the proportion of majority and minority (even more varying in some boards) is the only asymmetrical, imbalanced and unclassifiable dimension.


The coins most probably should be regarded as the figures of performers, because they fall into ranks as the units of the dimension and form an ornament or a net. However, as the performers, the shapes of the coins should be articulated double, as abundance, infinitude on one hand, and as separate units forming this abundance on the other hand. Another performer has a shape of a line or, more particular, of two lines, which delimitate, on the top and underneath, an empty plane (in fringes) and a coin-filled plane (in the middle). The place in this work is not particularised and clearly demarcated, so it could be understood as an abstract, endless plane (or space) and identified with the surface of the picture (or, to be more exact, its background), which is differentiated in four separate, but not antagonistic parts or “places” by its rectangular boards and in three parts by the colours (of the background) (blue, orange and two times black). Expressions of a figure of time are absent in the background. Accordingly, a figurative path is formed by the movement of small units (their abundance) in the space, as lined on the top and underneath, and thus acquiring a horizontal direction only. Since the figures have the horizontal layout instead of a vertical or diagonal one, we cannot identify any hierarchic interrelation or irreversible process.

Turning back to the chromatic analysis, one fact relating to the characteristics of the material is worth noting. The surface (background and lines) of the picture is from leather, while the coins of one-cent denomination, of course, are from metal. This gives such a result that the background (leather surface) has colour (orange, black or blue), but at the same time it is opaque with authentic and unique leather texture (even though it is difficult to see). On the other hand, the figures of the mentioned performers are white, glossy, and, as standard units, identical. In addition, being a soft covering material, the leather acquires a rectangular shape (of the board), while the coins are hard (metal), self-closed and circular.


In each row, position of the coins advances by a half interval thus forming a pattern, not a static one where the nearest elements, joined by straight lines, form a square (and may only develop into a bigger square or a rectangle), but a more complicated and dynamic diagonal-based pattern where the nearest elements form triangles (and the latter join each other forming trapeziums, hexagons or bigger triangles). Zigzags formed by the repetition, advancing and diagonals of the coins create a regular movement, displacement or alternation, which rhythm simultaneously implies the flow of evenly passing time. This reveals a thematic value of the figures of the mentioned performers. In addition, a circular shape of the cent is also favourable for movement expressing, moreover that the image of tails or heads turn to various directions instead of being ranked regularly and readable only vertically. Therefore, each row is as if a framed out action of the movement of the coin. In its turn, a rectangular shape of the board (together with the colours) renders stability, passiveness and steadiness value to the figures of “place”. They form a basis for the movement. It’s true to say that the rhythm of the coins strip is not absolutely uninterruptible, because one vertical line of coins is missing at the junction of two boards, but this pause is repeated in equal intervals and, therefore, does not mess up the overall rhythm of continuity and does not fully stop the movement either. Accordingly, the movement is organised at two paces of rhythmic intervals – at the small pace (from one element to another) and at the big pace (from one edge of the boards to another one). Ranging in time, the flow (rhythm) comes to new places and spaces again and again, but it doesn’t change itself. The whole discussion of this level may be expressed in the following group of oppositions:

Circular and

Self-confined and

Moving and 

Glossy and

White and

Warm and

Hard and

angular (rectangular)












2. Narrative analysis

There are four phases singled out in narrative analyses: manipulation, competence, conformity and sanction. In this work we can see manipulation, competence and conformity, while sanction is not explicitly expressed, but implied only. The cents are not allowed to move vertically (so they are manipulated) by outlines. Accordingly, the latter are addressers making the cents displace and move. In addition, the uninterrupted movement backwards and forwards is facilitated by the warming “place” (orange) and cooling “place” (blue) on the opposite side. External circumstances of the coins, i.e., even surface (space), its changing colours, horizontal lines marking the path of movement, and internal properties, i.e., circular shape, big quantities, even rhythm of ranking – all this empowers and renders the coins, which in this case are the acting entities, competence for such movement. When you are in a tunnel or corridor, you will sooner or later make a move in one or another direction. In addition, the coins cannot stay in the same place due to their peculiar nature, both physical (they are round) and symbolic (money always circulates). Units are moving submitting to these laws. A global “cash-flow” inevitably reaches and floods all corners of the world. In this respect it’s worth noting that the direction of the movement from the left to the right (clockwise direction) appears to be acceptable and positive for our apprehension, while the direction from the right to the left is perceived as unacceptable and negative (counter-clockwise).


The phase of conformity is featured by the movement itself, transition from one plane onto another simultaneously transforming from one state (averse) to the other (reverse). Yet, this movement encompasses return to the former state and leaving it over and over again. Ever-changing colours of places (and time) are luring, sucking, but when you have sunk they don’t give you anything else but push you back and bring you forward or backward. This way the movement becomes an endless stepping left and right alternately, but the rhythm doesn’t change – there are no hindrances, jams or breaks (except for those at the junction threads of the rectangles). The end or the beginning of this movement neither exists nor is implied, as isn’t the finite goal or overall evolution either.  Sanction is not highlighted, i.e., penalties or incentives, resultant from this act of movement, are concealed. The particular and ultimate goal and, at the same time, the meaning of the movement are not revealed on narrative level. Accordingly, a conclusion is intruded that the meaning of the movement is the movement itself, changes, energy, life, and continuous regeneration. It is like a water-drop, which moves from hot to cold and backwards, turns from water to vapour and then again to water. This work renders exactly the same cyclic movement (though expressed in a straight line). But why it is so that on one board some reverse coins appear in the majority of averse coins and vice versa? Probably, in vast masses there always appear some seizing, rebellious elements striving to move the opposite direction, be something else than the remaining ones, disengage from the given way. Moreover, the author uses one-cent coins instead of two-cent or five-cent coins. One-cent coins are the smallest units, indivisible to smaller units or, simply, individuals. Accordingly, they are inclined to act somewhat differently than the others. Yet, as we deal with money anyhow, the presence of the “rebellious” minority may allude to its “illegal” ways. On the whole, these coins, whether white and glossy, luring and promising, may be undoubtedly approached as good, which is even more highlighted and glinting when seen in the black zones (background). It often happens so that in one or another difficult situation we think that only money can save us (though it is often a mere illusion).


3. Logical semantic analysis

So, it is obvious that all the elements in this work render a dimension of time, its movement and cyclic recurrence. Accordingly, the central opposition here could be between change and stability or dynamics and statics. The change is time, circle, abundance of units; it always exists, but exists in movement. On the other hand, statics is place, square, unit; it always exists too, but exists in statics. Like the rhythm of coins in this work, time is also measured in bigger intervals (seasons of a year) and smaller intervals (days). The flow of time is framed in two lines, because time is always more or less limited. The limitary lines provide the fluid energy of the flow with a structural, definite form, and thus it is not transcendent. Its “earthly” nature is also indicated by the cents, a particular instrument of exchange. Yet, if this flow of movement stopped, everything around would become lifeless and meaningless.


It is also important to note that here the models of linear and cyclic (spiral) flow of time come to one thing – the flow of time moves forward, but it is alternating and recurrent inside. Looking historically, the linear concept of the flow of time was prevailing in the West, and the central concept thereof was predominating in the East, in Byzantium. The problem of changes and dynamics became an extremely popular topic in the modern epoch. The dialectical structure of the world inspired constant moving from one thing to another. The change was first emphasised in the Western culture by Heraclitus, who said that the essential property of reality is absolute, continuous becoming and you cannot step in the same river twice. Unity and fight of opposites determine the rise of energy and energy, in its turn, results in the rise of the alternation of the world. It’s worth noting, however, that in the West changes have been for many years approached as evil, uncertainty, danger to order, while in the Chinese culture the change and unity of opposites have been always understood as a positive phenomenon. Dense collection of various opposites in the work by Saulauskaite in fact offers a complicated, but a highly uniform, mathematically precise and pedantically arranged view of the world.


Ruta Taukinaityte-Narbutiene