What the brain draws from: Art and neuroscience

Interesting post by Elizabeth Landau at CNN about the intersection of art and science.

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“Pablo Picasso once said, “We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.”

If we didn’t buy in to the “lie” of art, there would obviously be no galleries or exhibitions, no art history textbooks or curators; there would not have been cave paintings or Egyptian statues or Picasso himself. Yet, we seem to agree as a species that it’s possible to recognize familiar things in art and that art can be pleasing.

To explain why, look no further than the brain.

The human brain is wired in such a way that we can make sense of lines, colors and patterns on a flat canvas. Artists throughout human history have figured out ways to create illusions such as depth and brightness that aren’t actually there but make works of art seem somehow more real.

The illusion of clouds reflecting on water

The illusion of clouds reflecting on water

And while individual tastes are varied and have cultural influences, the brain also seems to respond especially strongly to certain artistic conventions that mimic what we see in nature.

What we recognize in art

It goes without saying that most paintings and drawings are, from an objective standpoint, two-dimensional. Yet our minds know

[to keep reading]

 

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