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Vijay Patel and Semir Zeki


Neuroesthetics, which studies the neural basis of aesthetic and artistic creativity and appreciation, has been greatly inspired by art to frame questions that can be experimentally tested. All artistic achievements and their experience are the products of brain processes. Hence, by studying them neurobiologically, one can learn much about the functional organization of the brain. But we have now also turned our attention to using such knowledge of the brain and of visual perception as we have to produce new works of art, thus creating a basis for an exciting two-way interaction. One result is this exhibition, undertaken by us as members of Mondocromatico, an umbrella organisation linked to the Wellcome Laboratory of Neurobiology at University College London, which is specialized in studying the visual brain.


In the works shown here, we have used the phenomenon known as coloured shadows to generate colour as well as form and depth from simple white sculptures presented against a white background. When an object is illuminated with white and red light, its shadow is of the opponent colour (in this instance green). By adding several coloured lights to white light, several opponent coloured shadows of the object will be produced. These colours are produced in a specific area of the visual brain. How they are combined with depth and form, attributes which are separately processed in the brain, remains a problem of profound interest to research.


We hope that this will have wider implications, by showing how our scientifically gained knowledge can be of value in creating artworks inspired by knowledge of visual perception. This could in turn also help artists deepen their understanding of their work and develop new works based on physiological knowledge.