Neuroaesthetics and the Appeal of Abstract Art

posted by – 07/19/12 @ 3:01pm

Can the popularity of a piece of art be explained neurologically? That’s what the newest studies behind “neuroaesthetics” are trying to determine – if there’s a scientific explanation for the way that we respond to art. Though styles like Impressionism have always proved to be traditionally popular, more abstract styles of art by artists like Pollock, Rothko and Mondrian usually tend to be more difficult for the general public to interpret. However, though canvases seemingly haphazardly splattered with paint on the floor or “rigorously geometrical, primary coloured compositions” may not be traditional, easy to read narratives, several studies have shown that our brains are actually attracted and stimulated by many aspects of these non-traditional images. Our brain naturally tends to try to “solve” images, and well-balanced compositions like those of Rothko or Mondrian actually “appeal to the brain’s visual system”.

Perhaps our brain feels a sense of peace when looking at Mondrian’s gridlike compositions or Rothko’s appealing blocks of color, and maybe these aesthetically simpler pieces are just easier for a given museum-goer to appreciate it. You don’t have to be knowledgeable of a complex historical background or be able to identify religious figures in order to see these paintings for what they are.

Though viewers may not even be aware, it seems that they are still able to sense the intention behind these abstract paintings. The studies also suggest that the dynamism of works such as Pollock’s action paintings can be felt so strongly because “the brain reconstructs the energetic movements the artist used as he painted.”

Thus, though these works clearly don’t have easily determined interpretations, it seems that we’re actually naturally drawn to them. We all have our own (perhaps unknown) reasons for our impulsive attractions to certain paintings, and I find that non-representational paintings can sometimes make much more of an impact. Rothko and Pollock certainly bring to mind contemporary artwork like Martica Griffin’s paintings in which colors seem to flow into one another, and Hyunmee Lee’s abstract, gestural paintings. Since these works have no defining, easily readable narrative, we can each make of them what we like for ourselves, one of greatest characteristics of this type of art.

Source: NewScientist

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