New Scientist: Get the picture? Art in the brain of the beholder
by Kat Austen
“… The idea was to bring scientific objectivity to the study of art, in an attempt to find neurological bases for the techniques that artists have perfected over the years. It has already offered insights into many masterpieces. The blurred imagery of Impressionist paintings seems to tickle the brain’s amygdala, for instance, which is geared towards detecting threats in the fuzzy rings of our peripheral vision. Since the amygdala plays a crucial role in our feelings and emotions, that finding might explain why many people find these pieces so moving.
Could the same approach tell us anything about the controversial pieces that began to emerge from the tail end of Impressionism more than 100 years ago? Whether it is Mondrian’s rigorously geometrical, primary-coloured compositions, or Pollock’s controversial technique of dripping paint onto the canvas in seemingly haphazard patterns, the defining characteristic of modern art has been to remove almost everything that could be literally interpreted…”