Monday, August 27, 2012

Art and the Brain, Part 1

Trace in the Sky  © 2012 Katherine Kean 
oil on linen 30 x 40 inches
Neuroesthetics is a subject that I've long had an interest in so, I was pleased to have the opportunity recently to attend a presentation about Art and the Brain, lead by researcher and writer Erik Nemeth, that took place at Cassandra Tondro’s home. In his presentation, Erik draws upon the work of Semir Zeki about neuroesthetics, a relatively new science that explores how the brain perceives pleasure.

The artists present seemed to be relieved to hear Erik say that artists intrinsically understand perception without having to know the biology of how our eyes and brains work and that the study of neuroesthetics has validated the artistic approaches used throughout history for conveying expression and meaning.

From the work presented by the group of artists present he chose one from each artist to discuss and offer comments. As he approached a piece Erik would explain how he was seeing.

Often the first thing he noticed was contrast, or lack of contrast, that would draw the eye, as well as what associations an artwork might have for him. It is natural for the brain to look for associations - to look for something that it recognizes or holds meaning.

 For the painting above he mentioned that to him, the forms and associations came slowly because the painting is low in contrast overall and without large color differences – almost monochromatic with most of the color falling into one end of the visual spectrum.

 He also explained how the blue helps to create a feeling of great distance, that our brains automatically place blue in the background as we are used to seeing it in the sky. He mentioned that what contrast there is coincides with an intersection of form and he felt that created a sense of reassurance. The vagueness and darkness of the outer areas then felt less threatening.

He spoke about how this vagueness adds to the ambiguity or mystery. I'll follow up on that in the next post.


Kathryn Hansen said...

this is a very interesting topic! i wonder if his comments will change anything about your paintings in the future...knowing now how people perceive paintings thru form and color.

maybe it's this format but your painting seems to have a lot of contrast to me. my mind associates your painting with the beginning of the hiking trail i hike on over the weekends (the single tree up on the mountain).

which makes me wonder...are people more likely to buy a piece of art that they subconsciously associate a pleasant memory with?

Katherine Kean said...

Hi Kathryn,
Interesting ideas! I think having a greater awareness of the how of perception might help me strengthen expression in the future.
I think it might be important to note that we all see differently, which will affect our brain's perception. Yes, this is a different format, with different lighting and also you and I might be more sensitive to contrast than some people.
And yes, I think many people may be inclined to buy things that they have pleasant associations with.
Thanks for your insightful comments!

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.

Diane Hoeptner said...

Sounds fascinating and it made me study your spectacular painting all the more!!

Katherine Kean said...

Thanks Diane! I've been updating my website with higher resolution so if you like you can get a larger than life close up view by visiting the link below and clicking on the painting to zoom.
Trace in the Sky

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