Thematic Analysis & Interpretation:
The next steps in analysis are to move beyond what is literally there in the image (formal visual elements) and examine the meaning they represent. The visual elements of an image act as signs, symbols and metaphors that have significance and meaning.
Example: in the image above, the right hand form has a top hat that is a symbol of male gender. Since the work is titled "Surrealist Couple" we can infer that the left hand figure symbolises female identity. The "couple" are pictured against a building that could symbolisethe institution they both inhabit - marriage. The building is not an archetypal domestic home. It is a bizarre dwelling and this infers (symbolises) strangeness on the normally ordinary idea of marriage.
Thematic analysis is more subjective (opinionated) than the relatively subjective (factual) criteria of formal analysis. The metaphorical and symbolic significance of imagery is based on the unique cultural knowledge and identity of the individual viewer. Cultures share symbolic meaning - this makes communication via common language possible - but the exact significance of symbols is often unique to each individual.
Interpreting a work of art involves finding an overall meaning or significance that the work has for you. It may be intellectual, or sensual or a mixture of both. Your original first impressions are an important in doing this. The latter process of analysing and interpreting the artwork can be a decoding of its elements to find the cause of your initial reaction.