Books et al.Aesthetics

Scientist's guide to modern art

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Science  16 Sep 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6305, pp. 1215
DOI: 10.1126/science.aah3441

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In Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures, Eric R. Kandel, the noted brain scientist, states that painting—from the Renaissance until fairly recently—sought to create the illusion of the three-dimensional world on a two-dimensional canvas. Painting in this tradition moves us, he argues, for the same reason that the world moves us. However, it is abstract art that is Kandel's real concern in this provocative short book. We have no choice, when confronted with the nonfigurative, but to free ourselves from normal seeing, he argues. Memory, emotion, and past experience become our guide. Abstract painting, in this way, frees us from the ties that bind us to reality and allows for more powerful feeling and for emotional, even spiritual, response.