Category Archives: Neuroaesthetics

A New Conciousness

A New Consciousness (12/2006)

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. –Rene Descartes

We do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are – that is the fact. –Jean-Paul Sartre

In his most famous affirmation, Descartes (1596-1650) said “Cogito ergo sum” (“I think, therefore I am”). This is to say that essence precedes existence and humans may doubt existence all they want, but one cannot doubt the thinking consciousness. In comparison, Existentialists reject this theory and assert that the ultimate reality is, according to Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), “being in the world.”  In other words, existence precedes essence and humans are given a world to their consciousness. These profound realities both hold weight in their logic but are in exact opposition. Which is correct? Continue reading

Mark Rothko: Transcendent Emotion

Utter Rapture

“There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul.” – Arnold Bennett

Taoism is one of the most eminent religious and philosophical constitutions of Eastern Asia. Cultivated for over two millennia, Taoism endured years of transformation and interpretation, yet has retained its basic principles. Tao (or Dao) translates as the “path” or “way” of life; therefore, Taoism speaks to the ebbs and flows, balance and orderliness, of the universe (Hansen, C., 2007). Due to its fluid nature, Taoism speaks to the impermanence of all things. Existence is the lack of the eternal, as nothing is everlasting. The process of decay is then just as encompassing as birth or renewal. Continue reading

Pablo Picasso: Time and Space Encapsulated

Wrong to Assume?

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” –Pablo Picasso

The human brain, the world’s ultimate meaning-seeker, is so curious that it often jumps to conclusions. In society, we often think negatively of assumptions because of their stereotypical nature. We say, do not assume that such and such has happened; rather, go to the source and hear the truth for yourself. To assume is to create falsified information – that is, if you are wrong. Continue reading

Salvador Dali: The Living Unconscious

The Mind’s Eye

The difference between false memories and true ones is the same as for jewels: it is always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant.” – Salvador Dali

Helen Fukuhara, wife of a watercolor artist and daughter of an abstract painter, received her bachelor’s degree in music and speech arts. She later went on to study fine art, including ceramics, printmaking, and mixed media in Los Angeles. Eventually, she moved towards two-dimensional work. She is now 61 years old and continues to make art.

None of this sounds minutely interesting, as it almost appears to be a somewhat predictable storyline. Except that Helen is congenitally blind. Continue reading

Paul Cézanne: The Father of Modern Art

True or False?

Two-dimensional art, by definition, is an optical illusion. A painting, for example, is just a piece of canvas stretched across a wooden frame, displaying an image of some thing which is not actually there; it is only an interpretation or replication of some other entity. What most consider as “good” art is that which best represents the subject as we know it to be. To achieve high quality results, artists use particular tricks, such as luminosity, to enhance the feeling of realness. If you are standing in front of Monet’s water lilies, you may feel enchanted by the light and movement in the scene, but you are not in fact looking at real light, or real movement, or even real water lilies. And it is not as if this is a secret that you are just now discovering, I am aware of this.

But, what is interesting is that if these “replicates” are simply that, deceptions of true reality, then why are they so extremely fascinating? Why are Monet’s water lilies more beautiful than real water lilies? Why, in some cases, is an abstracted form more appealing than the original form? Continue reading


We Are All Artists At Heart – And At Head

When you get sudden flashes of perception, it is just the brain working faster than usual. But you’ve been getting ready to know it for a long time, and when it comes, you feel you’ve known it always. – Katherine Anne Porter

Our brains are meaning-seeking machines. Somehow, through the constant flow of visual information, this organ can put together the bits and pieces of our surroundings to create what we call “meaning”. This function of understanding is undoubtedly the most crucial quality of what it means to be human, and thanks to modern science, we are now beginning to assemble a neurological construct that gives light to the inner workings of these most fabulous machines. Continue reading

Claude Monet: The Colorist


I am pursuing the impossible. I want to paint the air.

– Claude Monet

In the nineteenth century, the world took on a powerful technological pursuit and succeeded beautifully. The Industrial Revolution brought about mass change to the ordinary and extraordinary lives of humans worldwide. Locomotives afforded those who could match the expense with the gift of travel – an experience that suddenly brought coasts and countries that much closer to each other. Scientific advancements were also taking place, improving the knowledge of chemistry, engineering, and physiology.

These physical progressions in the practical world initiated sub-revolutions in trades across the board. Mechanics and doctors were working with entirely new fields. The Industrial Revolution had definitely produced powerful material results; and with this great change and innovation, came new ability and inspiration. It was if the Revolution byproduct was an ethereal intellect, left lingering in the air.

Art is materialized reflection. When the world experiences revisions, you can be sure that the art world will simultaneously react. To look at the history of art is to look at the stratum of a mountainside: each layer varies in composition (i.e. subject, era, location), color (i.e. medium), and depth (i.e. length of time period). Each layer is created by what is physically occurring in the world. When the Revolution struck, doors for artists’ commentary flew open. This is not to say that Renoir and Pissarro suddenly felt the urge to paint large trains. Rather, as mentioned before, the lingering and stimulating intellect in the air generated the enthusiasm needed to produce genius.

One of the first, and most notably one of the best, to rebel against the conventional philosophy of the French Academy (Hurwitz, L. S., 1996) was Oscar-Claude Monet. Straying from Realism, up and coming artists sought a different kind of “real” which dealt with ideas and methods that were considered radical at the time. Artists were painting what they were seeing and perceiving, not just what they knew. The name of this movement, came from one of Monet’s earlier works, “Impression: Sunrise” (Rakow, P., 2007). Their primary concern is seemingly simple, yet vastly valuable to the world of perception: light. Continue reading

Leonardo da Vinci: The Keen Eye


Curiosity is defined as “desire to know…interest leading to inquiry” (Curiosity, 2010). Many of us think of curiosity as an innate quality and it certainly appears as such. However, this inquisitive behavior is unlike mating or mimicry in that it lacks a fixed action pattern; in other words, there are no specific neural patterns designed to produce the behavior. This could be due to the fact that curiosity is an enormously intricate structure of the brain, and thus research has yet to conclude whether or not curiosity is a primary or secondary drive (Edelman, S., 1997).

Innate or not, curiosity is true to its definition: it is caused by desire. This desire comes from “a form of cognitively induced deprivation that arises from the perception of a gap in knowledge or understanding” (Loewenstein, G., 1994). Communication scholars may call this Cognitive Dissonance, as it is a motivational drive to better understand conflicting fractions of existing or non-existing knowledge (Cognitive Dissonance Theory, 2004); or Semiotics, the production and interpretation of meaning (Semiotic Theory, 2004). In any case, there is a common thread among these theories under which curiosity can be classified: spiritual emotion. And all humans share the emotions, inspired by the soul, which drive curiosity.

For scientists and artists alike, it is a duty to both pursue and inspire curiosity. Although these fields are classified as different disciplines, they both aim at seeking a unified truth (Zeki, S. 1999). Empirical research lends itself as the method of exploration for the sciences, while pencil and paper are the valued medium for the artist. But no matter the means, the results consistently harmonize – art reflects science, science reflects art, and both benefit from the other.

Recent advancements in neuroscience have lent a hand in this duet between art and science. Mainly attributed to the work of Semir Zeki, neuroaesthetics, the scientific study of the neural bases for the contemplation and creation of a work of art (Nalbantian, S., 2008), provides us with that innate quality that curiosity leaves us without. It provides us with answers for the seemingly superficial integration of science and art. Neuroaesthetics shows us that science and art rely on one another because they are one in the same.

One man knew this and used it to his advantage long before neuroaesthetics had even been born. Interestingly enough, his tremendous curiosity is what compelled him to achieve astonishing feats of both science and art. Leonardo da Vinci is the true father of neuroscience, contributing fascinating research to the field before it’s time (Anatomical Drawings, 2004), and establishing himself as the first to make a true and literal connection between the arts and the sciences. Continue reading