What Kandel has achieved here is to illuminate the similarities between both fields and to identify commonalities.
The structure of his work allows for ease of understanding about the progression of both schools and provides an historical overview which is both useful and insightful. Part One sets the scene and discusses the motivating factors behind the development of the abstract school of art in New York. This section allows the reader to fully grasp the desire for change within artistic circles, following on from the horrors of the Second World War and the struggle to conceptualise a world of meaning in the wake of such destruction.
This heady mix of creativity, history and the gathering of intellectuals in New York set the stage for some of the greatest and most popular artworks to date and catapulted the American art scene into global popularity and recognition.
Part Two provides a useful summary of the reductionist approach to brain science. Many of these concepts, particularly around the nature of optics and the processes of meaning making from what we see in the world around us may be unfamiliar, however Kandel handles them with ease and grace, which allows the reader to develop an informed and engaged view and to relate this to their own experiences with art. Moving from the foundations of a scientific approach to art, Kandel seamlessly weaves together the biology of memory and the visual system to demonstrate the individual significance of memory and learning on our perception of art.
This section is particularly fascinating, from lucid descriptions of the process of bottom up and top down processing to the importance of psychology in understanding our interaction with reductionist artwork, and cements the potential significance of this discipline in bridging the divide between art and science. Kandel also provides an in-depth overview of the impact of colour, light and configuration in art and the importance of such techniques in relation to viewer perception, emotion and imagination.
It is surely no coincidence that Kandel has chosen some of the most well-known and acclaimed works of art as examples here, from Monet to Pollock and Rothko. This grounds the work in a sense of the familiar and ensures readers are not alienated, even if their knowledge of both art and brain science may be limited. His enthusiasm is clear throughout and it is never possible to lose sight of his sense of wonder at the ability of humans, to absorb and experience the exquisite pleasures of art.
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Overview: Reductionism in Art and Brain Science
See our disclaimer. Are art and science separated by an unbridgeable divide? Can they find common ground? In this book, neuroscientist Eric R.
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