From the moment that works of art escaped the protective embrace of religion, they were automatically transformed into a question mark for the layman. In fact, from the late nineteenth century onwards this question mark is often accompanied by rage, every time the layman fails to understand the artist and his work.

An uninformed and in any case disorientating term, has been used to describe this, the so-called “interpretation” of a work of art. This word indirectly defines a work of art as a coded message, as a disguised entity at first glance, which is not immediately perceived and accepted because the suitable explanatory code is missing. Thus, it would suffice to translate the elements of the work of art into language and concepts of the common vocabulary, in order to render its content easily comprehensible.

This logic automatically changed most elements of the work of art into simplistic symbols, all aiming to refer to something else that is real and familiar, through a code possessed by the experts and doyens but which is equally perceivable by lay people, so long as someone shows them the key to decipher the code.

Using this method, the ‘translators’ of the works of art, that is teachers, art critics, curators and others, have managed to become the necessary mediators, as well as to appease the public by assuring people that a simple ‘interpretation’ suffices in order to make the work of art their own.

What followed was expected, when the ‘interpretation’ began to precede the creation, that is when the underlying ‘meaning’, the concept, started becoming a precondition for the work. The mediators, as well as the bored and spoilt public, demanded a priori knowledge of the translation in order to accept and understand the work.

This tactic has two contradicting consequences, both absolutely negative. On the one hand, it contributes to making something that simply exists through its physical presence appear extremely complicated, thus pre-engaging the public’s admiration, and on the other hand it strips the work from the intricate (and interesting) complexity of its simple presence, by depriving the public of the ability to reflect and gradually enjoy.

In the work of art everything is at once visible and mysterious. And this is how it should remain. The work of art does not expect to be ‘understood’, because it simply does not hide anything. And it does not aspire to its demystification, because mystery is its main component.

Even if we accept the usefulness and precision of each interpretation, there is no way that it is authentic and unique and it is impossible to cover the whole work and even less its core. The result will be, as in most cases, that the work’s recipient limits his interest to the ‘translated’ element and misses the opportunity of arriving at the essential (and always abstract) content of the entire work.

The word “interpretation” could be replaced perhaps by the term “approach”. And the word “understanding” could be replaced by “emotion” or “intensity”. Nevertheless the word “language”, as a singular code, could continue to have a place in the communication with art, not in its semiotic and symbolic dimension, but with the one that we use in the important and abstract events of our life. Such as the language of love, friendship, faith and all the emotions that require long-term knowledge, sensitivity and communication. Our emotions and admiration increase when their object safeguards part of his value and profits from the passage of time in order to transmute the quality of communication. This is why all great works have the power to keep their mystery intact. We owe them this respect.