A work of art is a product of the brain, a work of literature is a product of the brain and one can learn a great deal about the limits and the possibilities of brain organisation by looking at these works. Professor Zeki thinks that neuroscientist have anything to teach the humanist or the artist, that Cezanne's drawing would improve by knowing how the brain works. Implying that neurscoientist have a great deal to learn from artist, but don't have that much to teach them.
One of the primordial functions of the brain is to acquire knowledge, but the making of sense of this world; of the impulses that we are getting all day long which are often in a chaotic state, is a primordial function of the brain. Let us say portrait painting, a great portrait is one which gives you knowledge of a certain character, of certain characteristics of that character, and hence becomes applicable not to just one person but applicable to many characters of that time. For example you could paint arrogance, or resigned resentment, in the late self portrait of Rembrandt there is this resigned resentment at failing powers, and this is applicable to many people. It is knowledge about the character that it gives you.
The characteristic of an efficient knowledge-acquiring system, faced with permanent change, is its capacity to abstract, to emphasize the general at the expense of the particular. Abstraction, which arguably is a characteristic of every one of the many different visual areas of the brain, frees the brain from enslavement to the particular and from the imperfections of the memory system.
An interesting thing Lichenstein said is that science is often considered to be for learning whereas art is for pleasure. And people don't realise that you learn a great deal from art as well. If you want to learn something about human nature, let us say about arrogance, would you be better off reading Corielanus by Shakespeare or studying textbooks of psychology? Probably you would benefit from both, enormously.
One way of looking at art history, in Zeki’s terms, is as the progression of the human brain’s understanding of its own capacity for visual perception. You can see this in artists work "When an artist says: ‘How can I make a great portrait?’" Zeki observes, "what they really mean is ‘how can I represent this particular face on canvas so that it allows the brain to generalize its concept of faces and therefore becomes a great portrait?’" This desire can be tested experimentally; some cells in the brain will only "fire" with excitement when presented with particular views of the face. The greatest portrait painters have, through experiment, intuition, and skill, discovered the rules of this visual grammar.
When we study, the capacity to evaluate something that's beautiful, you are actually interacting with the work of art. and you're deciding whether it's nice or not. Zeki emphasizes that they haven't located beauty, which is another common misapprehension, they just located the neural activity that corresponds with the appreciation of particular works of art. Meaning that beauty isn't strictly located in the brain; nevertheless the brain is an enabling system for you to appreciate beauty.
The room without books
5 days ago