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How do we see art? Leicester Uni scientists investigate

Some rights reserved by quapan

Uni of Leicester Professor of Bioengineering Rodrigo Quian Quiroga is on a quest to understand what brain processes lead to the appreciation and enjoyment a piece of art in a museum.

He’s joined in his investigation by Dr Sandra Dudley, expert in material and visual culture and the senses in Leicester’s School of Museum Studies, and with the Argentine artist, Mariano Molina.

Professor Quian Quiroga obtained international acclaim for his discovery of a type of neuron in the brain which fires in an ‘abstract’ manner to different pictures of familiar people – Jennifer Aniston or Halle Berry, for example. His work has also indicated that it is possible to tell what people are seeing from their neuronal activity

He said: “The links between science and arts have so far been very limited.

“However, it is very interesting that visual artists have long been aware (at least intuitively) of some principles of visual perception in Neuroscience.

“For example, Neuroscientists study issues such as colour, shape and depth perception, which are well-known in Arts. In this respect, the basic idea of our project is to combine knowledge about visual perception from arts and neuroscience and create an exhibition showing the principles involved.

“Our goal is not only to create novel art pieces, but also to use these canvases as an engaging way to show these neuroscience principles to the general public; principles that explain something as interesting as how we see.”

The artist Mariano Molina will create a set of canvases demonstrating principles of visual perception, together with a simple explanation of each neuroscience principle used.

Mariano said: “The opportunity is extraordinary. I am excited to start conceiving new art pieces using knowledge from neuroscience research, mixing it with all the resources and skills that I have learnt from years of practicing visual arts.”

The project will culminate in an Arts & Science exhibition in the autumn.

The work is supported by a £30K grant from the Beyond Text initiative of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and continues the work Professor Quian Quiroga and Dr Dudley have begun in a project entitled Perception and wellbeing: a cross-disciplinary approach to experiencing art in the museum, also supported by the AHRC’s Beyond Text initiative and the Art Fund.

This project has already attracted a great deal of media attention, most recently as part of a documentary by Channel 4, to be shown this summer.

(image: look downstairs into stairwell whirl Attribution Some rights reserved by quapan)