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
Posted in Neuroaesthetics
Tagged ann marie barry, Art, brain, emotion, jospeh ledoux, mind, Neuroaesthetics, Paul Cezanne, perception, perceptual aesthetics, picasso, rothko, semir zeki, tinbergen
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
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
Posted in Neuroaesthetics
Tagged ann marie barry, Art, beauty, brain, curiosity, da Vinci, divine proportion, fibonacci series, golden decagon matrix, golden proportion, Golden Ratio, golden rectangle, imprensiva, leonardo da vinci, memoria, Neuroaesthetics, renaissance man, senso, soul, virtuvian man, zeki