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Ian Yang

ESSAYS ON SCIENCE AND SOCIETY: Artistic Creativity and the Brain -- Zeki 293 (5527): 51... - 5 views

  • Visual art contributes to our understanding of the visual brain because it explores and reveals the brain's perceptual capabilities. As Paul Klee once wrote, "Art does not reproduce the visible; it makes things visible." But visual art also obeys the laws of the visual brain, and thus reveals these laws to us. Of these laws, two stand supreme.
  • The first is the law of constancy. By this I mean that the function of the visual brain is to seek knowledge of the constant and essential properties of objects and surfaces, when the information reaching it changes from moment to moment. The distance, the viewing point, and the illumination conditions change continually, yet the brain is able to discard these changes in categorizing an object.
  • The second supreme law is that of abstraction. By abstraction I mean the process in which the particular is subordinated to the general, so that what is represented is applicable to many particulars. This second law is intimately linked to the first, because abstraction is a critical step in the efficient acquisition of knowledge; without it, the brain would be enslaved to the particular. The capacity to abstract is also probably imposed on the brain by the limitations of its memory system, because it does away with the need to recall every detail. Art, too, abstracts and thus externalizes the inner workings of the brain. Its primordial function is thus a reflection of the function of the brain.
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