Symbol: the love-heart

27 02 2012

You know the shape I mean –  the one that’s meant to visually represent the heart, is traditionally used to indicate love, and is often either red or pink.

image from Wiki; click on image for original source

It makes me shiver a little. I really don’t like it. Though I’m not sure why …

Looking at Wiki, a few interesting points:

  • In European traditional art and folklore, the heart symbol is drawn in a stylized shape. This shape is typically coloured red, suggesting both blood and, in many cultures, passion and strong emotion.
  • The hearts have constituted, since the 15th century, one of the red suits in most playing card decks.” – I didn’t know that!
  • What the traditional “heart shape” actually depicts is a matter of some controversy. It only vaguely resembles the human heart. The seed of the silphium plant, used in ancient times as an herbal contraceptive, has been suggested as the source of the heart symbol. The heart symbol could also be considered to depict features of the human female body, such as the female’s buttocks, pubic mound, or spread vulva.”

From an alternative source, Symbols:

  • The heart sign is as old as 0650, 2612, 0431b, 2439, 0221, and 4204. Its meaning for the people living in Europe before the last Ice Age of course is not known, but since these Cro-Magnons were hunters one can be reasonably sure it meant that life sustaining organ pumping around the blood of the organism every second of its lifetime. ” – so that answers the question I had about when the symbol was first seen in art
  • The heart does not appear in any established sign system. It is an anarchistic graph that has yet to find a place in any conventional sign system. Nontheless it is well known throughout the Western world as a sign for togetherness or love, especially sexual love, making love, affection and so on.
  • The heart sign appears as a symbol in all the major cultural spheres.

There is also a suggestion that the love-heart shape has evolved from the upside-down triangle; where the triangle is an ancient symbol for the divine feminine (puberty mound) or feminine power in general.

Hysterically, it is also reported Sweden the sign is related to defecation and is used as the symbol for toilets. More seriously though, this same source suggests a potential root of symbol creation: “is actually a combination of other ideograms. It incorporates the symbols for fire/flight (from the middle ages) along with its equivalent counterpart from the open sign structures. The heart symbol also incorporates the symbol which represents togetherness.

+ + =

Further reading brought me to another site which suggests that the symbol evolved from the ivy leaf, and is now “probably most popular non-geometric symbol“.

I’ve always felt an aversion to the love-heart shape. When it’s used in artwork it often feels like it’s a short-cut (when genuinely used; as opposed to used in critique or irony) or somehow its historic weight it too much and can outweigh the context of its use. Further, it often feels naive or childish. It’s a symbol that’s been over-commercialised and I find it hard to connect with it.

I’m not a heartless or loveless person, oh heavens no! I just find it hard to like this shape.

Will you share your relationship with the love-heart symbol?

… last post in Symbol series: the swastika

Some people are just lovely

26 02 2012

This morning, in the near light of dawn, I took my scissors needle and thread with me … I had noticed that my yarn bombing had been looking worse for wear (the kids at the school may have been too exuberant in their admiration?), and it was time to administer repairs.

my yarn bomb – still makes me smile

However when I approached the knitting, it was to my absolute delight that I found it had already been repaired.

I know! How wonderfully amazing!! Someone else had taken the time and care to sew up the seam. Not just to notice that it was in peril, but to take it upon their lovely person to do something about it.


I want this person to know that I think they’re wonderful! How thoughtful. Really, I’m almost left speechless.

Please ask your friends / connections / communities – if you find the lovely person, please thank them for me.


Update (26th February): in more yarn-bombing news, I was reading the facebook page of a local cafe, Little Deer Tracks, and this was mentioned about the local council attitude to yarn-bombing … how very pleasing!

Moreland City Council last week issued a statement in support of yarn bombing, a kind of woollen graffiti on public amenities such as trees, street lights and parking meters, provided artists were mindful of public safety.
The statement was in response to one yarn bomber’s complaints she had been mistreated by council staff while working on a bike rack outside Coburg cafe Little Deer Tracks.
Moreland mayor Oscar Yildiz said he was happy for yarn bombing to go ahead. “We are encouraging it… but they have just got to take into account public safety,” he said. “What people sometimes forget is the time and effort people are putting into these yarns, they are enhancing the city.”
Claire Drake – whose yarn bombing moniker is A Brunswick Bomber and who tags with group Yarn Corner – said she had permission from the cafe and was surprised to have been reprimanded by council staff. She said she accepted the officer’s apology and welcomed Moreland City’s yarn bombing stance. “People will now feel more comfortable doing it,” she said. “No one wants a cyclist or pedestrian to become injured as a result of a poorly placed yarn bomb on a street sign.” She said it was the artist’s responsibility to ensure public works were maintained.
“Bali” is a yarn bomber who founded the group Yarn Corner to unite solo artists for larger Melbourne projects. She said Yarn Corner had 150 members aged from 8 to 65. “If a piece is falling apart or becoming a safety issue we always take it down,” she said. “There’s so much grey in everyone’s everyday life… it [yarn bombing] can lift people’s spirits.


Update (12th March): I’ve had to administer repairs again; the kids must be vigorously loving the colours! While I was stitching the seam up (again), a man walked past and said that it makes him smile every time he walks past it – how wonderful, that just made my day 🙂


Sunday watching …

25 02 2012

Once again the outrageously fabulous Zoe Brand has pointed me to something that I need to know about.
And I thought perhaps you’d like to as well.

Jewellery Unleashed!’ was an exhibition at Museum of Modern Art in Netherlands (MMKA; more), and an associated Symposium was held in early February. This symposium has been recorded and released on Vimeo: link here.

Perhaps some reading / watching for a lazy Sunday…

Odd groups

23 02 2012

It’s an observation many of us have no doubt made some time or other: why do artists often make groups in odd numbers?

Usually a grouping of any kind of artwork will likely be a threesome or a group of five.

Rarely have I seen an even number of pieces in a collection – except my own, I seem to do it quite a bit, though it was actively discouraged at RMIT.

It’s not restricted to “artists”; my dad mentioned the other day that when he is planting he always prefers to plant in odd numbers, three or five.

Is it a natural human leaning?

Regular readers will know I have numeric leanings … and have been wondering if the inclination is anything to do with the prevalence in nature of the Fibonacci sequence:
0 , 1 , 1 , 2 , 3 , 5 , 8 , 13 …
(a series of numbers where subsequent numbers are the sum of the previous two).

This sequence is also the basis of the golden ratio, which seems to be a naturally attractive ratio of scale (and the basis of our printing papers A4, A3, A2 etc).

Fibonacci or Golden Spiral; click on image for original source

And the Fibonacci sequence is regularly seen in nature: “such as branching in trees, arrangement of leaves on a stem, the fruit spouts of a pineapple, the flowering of artichoke, an uncurling fern and the arrangement of a pine cone.

Of course these numbers extend beyond my original question about 3 and 5 … though I feel like I’m onto something here.

What are your thoughts?