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Me n Art: The Science of Art

  1. Sep 27, 2008 #1
    Me n Art: The Science of Art

    I am a retired engineer with much formal education. Also I have five children and seven grandchildren. Thus, I speak with some extensive first-hand experience with the educational system in the United States.

    Until a few months ago, when I began studying the science of art, my only educational contact with art was a few late Friday afternoon classes in third and fourth grade, which dealt with using crayons to color drawings of turkeys, pumpkins, and pine trees during the holidays. Beyond this early formal contact with “art” I had only that which adhered to my mind via social osmosis.

    Only after reading parts of a few books on art basics have I discovered just how deficient was my early education. From all that I can ascertain the present conditions of elementary and high school education have little improved. My evidence indicates that our (USA) educational system has perhaps deteriorated from its very low level that I personally experienced.

    I have discovered that to study art is to study human nature. I have known for some time that our educational system has little regard for such matters because such matters add little to our ability to produce and to consume. Financial shenanigans are not the only means that CA (Corporate America) has used to take advantage of a naive population with little or no CT (Critical Thinking) knowledge or skills.

    A recent BBC series “reveals art to be not the product of culture, but the producer and shaper of culture…how art changed the world, our ideas, and even our humanity itself…like science and technology, [it] has altered our environment and our identity…We are art.”

    “Vision is an active grasp…A human face, just like the whole body, is grasped as an over all pattern of essential components…if we decide to concentrate on a particular person’s eye, that eye, too is perceived as a whole pattern…When the thing observed lacks this integrity, i.e., when it is seen as an agglomeration of pieces, the details lose their meaning, and the whole becomes unrecognizable…The young child sees “doggishness” before he is able to distinguish one dog from another.”

    “The shape of an object we see does not, however, depend only on its retinal projection at a given moment. Strictly speaking, the image is determined by the totality of visual experiences we have had with that object, or with that kind of object, during our lifetime.”

    Non BBC quotes are from “Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye” by Rudolf Arnheim.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 27, 2008 #2
    Clearly it is,
    But why has Canada less crime than US does ?

    Don't say so, everyone CAN be one if he/she is maddened. No matter what purposes you have in mind, if you deliberately does it, then it's your fault.

    Art ? it is just like a young cruel monkey in the process of evolving into a 'human'
  4. Sep 29, 2008 #3
    Any society that discourages art (visual or otherwise as an expression of creativity) discourages the inherent creative nature of humans.
    Once a person is well equipped to focus their attention of the details their society deems important, they begin to lose the ability to see "doggishness". Whether politics or physics, the inability to see doggishness is most often the reason we struggle too long, focused on details while missing a more significant realization.
    Just as an artist stands back from the canvas to see the "over all pattern of essential components", every discipline should do the same at regular intervals.
    What one realizes in the doggishness approach, visually and/or conceptually can be very advantageous to almost every other endeavor. While many have heard and used the phrase, "they can't see the forest for the trees", few put its meaning to good use on a regular basis.
    From enhancing communication to quite literally communicating what the spoken word cannot, art is very much a necessary component of every healthy society.
    P.S. If you are interested in how powerful art can be in the development of society, read as much as you can about the Renaissance in Florence. If it is feasible, go to Florence and see for yourself. I would suggest you take a private or semi-private tour. The large "Bus" tours are "look and run" events that do not offer the intimate historic details necessary to fully appreciate the revolutionary significance of the Renaissance.
  5. Sep 29, 2008 #4

    You are correct Florence is beautiful and filled with art. I am attempting to understand the science of art to begin with.
  6. Sep 29, 2008 #5
    My reference to the Renaissance was not just with respect to the great visual art.
    The Renaissance was the scientific revolution that set the foundation for many of the sciences and scientific method itself.
    It is interesting that people today such as yourself are interested in the scientific analysis of artistic expression
    when in the early Renaissance people were interested in the artistic expression of scientific method.
    I hope you find your studies intriguing enough to lead you to Florence, good luck and enjoy.
  7. Sep 29, 2008 #6
    It is after you find beauty and art in mathematics that you truly appreciate mathematics. (Most) child will not understand math until he sees the applications of it. Color is of no importance without eyes and the same thing goes with art.

    As far as I'm concerned education and wisdom is directly proportional to crime, happiness, and the economy. The educational system should DEFINITELY be redesigned to teach kids about life and beauty. After that has been learned things like math and history really take an affect on the mind for the better.
  8. Oct 1, 2008 #7


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    Great topic, but am not sure exactly what is being said about the science of art, involving human nature, psychological theory and culture. I’ll attempt a reply to what has been provided, but have found myself learning about this that most of these thoughts lead to more fascinating questions and few answers.

    With the title are you saying that gestalt (or any psychological theory or biology, cognitive or neuroscience or neuroaesthetics) may explain art? http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2008/09/neuroaesthetics_and_.html Perhaps they may some day.

    But, if you are saying science and visual art can have similar aims (like, for instance, according to Arnheim, in seeking to describe objective reality, or to understand reality) when investigating visual thinking, then I agree there are similarities, and see visual art can exemplify such explorations, and that the renaissance artists and scientists created a perceptual code, and with the influence of Cezanne, Picasso (and Braque) created another. In a different way, I think I’ve linked to this a couple of times already, so sorry if it bores, but think it is a more obvious example of a blurring between science and art with similar investigative aims. ,
    But even so, I think this is a small part of much bigger questions, and, as mentioned is along the lines one of many psychological theories.

    And along a different line of questions is about quoting Arnheim along with the Spivey program quote about art producing culture, as these are at odds as Arnheim is criticised for isolating visual art from culture, or contributing to an autonomous visual art separated from life. Although one way to look at this would be to say that that in itself speaks about the art and culture of that time.

    And, regarding the Spivey program, I didn’t catch all the episodes, but had the impression that there was no real support for the statement that art is the ‘producer or shaper of culture’, was there? Were concrete examples offered? But then, if not, is that because concrete examples are not as applicable to art, but more the domain of science?

    But to incorporate ideas from both quotes and raise some further thoughts, I think would involve all arts and perceptual thinking, and involve describing life or existence or culture and the fields of endeavour like science, and relating them, and ordering them in terms of which innovates and which is influenced.

    (I see you have a newer thread about Newton, perhaps it explains this thread more?)
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  9. Oct 1, 2008 #8

    The manner in which the brain constructs percepts is fundamental to the manner in which the brain constructs all thinking. To understand art is to study how we perceive and from that knowledge we can gain a comprehension of cognition.

    I have, in recent months, been studying SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science). This study has made me conscious of the systems of perception, conception, and thinking structures of human cognition. An understanding of these structures has made it possible for me to comprehend the importance of visual perception and its fundamental nature in all of human thinking.

    The accomplished visual artist must be a student of human visual perception in order to use that knowledge to create visual art that is in accordance with the peculiarities of our system of visual perception. The artist is using the art medium to express meaning and to communicate that meaning. Just as Shakespeare must be a student of human nature and of the English language to move the emotions of his reader. An analogy might be that the expert propagandist who must understand human nature and how the framing of issues makes it possible to best manipulate human behavior.
  10. Oct 2, 2008 #9


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    My posts may sound negative, I don't mean to be, these sciences have contributed to certain aspects of art and to understanding certain aspects of art a lot, but have contributed more questions too, and I hope to learn more from these and hopefully find answers. Your studies sound very interesting, I’d like to hear more. I paint.

    Yes, perception and cognition seem quite fundamental to everything. It is good to see mention of communication, meaning, emotion, and other important things like the reader/observer in the more recent post. It is things like this, and more- content, subject, narrative, historical context, linguistic interpretation, social differences, metaphor and other non-visible associations, culture, relations to all arts and activity… that were largely ignored in the artistic formalism influenced by such things as Gestalt.

    And historically, other problems arose, as some of the few who felt themselves able to access this information were in positions of authority in the art-world, and judged themselves arbiters of good taste, discerning high art of the mythical artist from its enemy ‘liberal vulgarity-market-driven-low and middle-browism’(Storr). For example, it was along these lines that Greenburg distinguished paintings of the American School of Abstract Expressionism from wall-paper.

    I don’t have a heap of time because I’m heading away for a few days, but, to jump over other theories, (psychological ones like Lacan, Kristeva, or neurological like the Ramachandran Hirstien paper, 2005? for one), to one which I read recently and so have in mind, which does begin by addressing social differences and by seeming expansive, that of Deleuze and Guattari, but which, when applied to visual art, seems narrow again, concentrating particular types of portraits.

    And further to the last post,
    I think we are all students of perception and human nature to some degree, and also that we may all create art in accordance with peculiarities of our perceptual systems. And although some may be more prone to do so than others, I do feel there is merit in all beings being free to create art or appreciate it or criticise it, and hope any scientific findings are not a deterrent to this, but am hopeful they will promote it.
  11. Oct 4, 2008 #10


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    That's a complete reversal to the occupation I held for quite a while as a Bio/Medical Artist (digital).

    The Art of Science or the Science of Art. Cool... two very different topics, yet joined a the hip by definitions.

    The science of art could be followed up in the advertising industry as well. There are a lot of scientific studies used to beef up the effectiveness of advertising and the tayloring of the art to render it influential to as many humans as possible. The elements are colour and their influences on the physiology of the body. Music and the images, hormones it evokes. Morphology... the shapes and the images of people... what they're doing etc. There's a whack of stuff to study in this, commercial aspect of the Science of Art!
  12. Oct 5, 2008 #11
    Perhaps I am wrong but I am convinced that Madison Avenue knows all about the science of art. The science of art is founded on the fact that our visual perception dominates our manner of thinking. As we see so do we think and the knowledge of how people think is used to manipulate human desire about which Madison Avenue is a master.
  13. Oct 7, 2008 #12


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    Well, for sure coberst. They're all about manipulation. Manipulating hormones which in turn manipulate emotions which in turn manipulate actions... (buying, gawking etc...). In fact, the very same science is probably used to motivate the taxpayer and voter to accept whatever debacle of the day.

    But this Science of Art and Art of Science is a many edged penny. This is because as soon as you apply science to create art... it isn't art. It simply becomes a result of science.

    Art, in its ideal form, is the result of an unconscious striving to express a "feeling" or "emotion" or "concept". As soon as a person consciously sets out to be "evocative" or to "shock" or "manipulate" the audience.... this effort becomes contrite and forced... and more like a science than an art.
  14. Oct 14, 2008 #13


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    For example, are computer generated fractals "art"... or simply a result of computer programming?

    Similarly, is computer generated imaging art or simply computer generated imaging?

    Its true enough that there is a person behind the programming who may or may not be trying to convey an emotion, feeling or concept they have in mind for the viewer. But, for the most part, these computer generated images are meant to stimulate certain feelings etc... in the viewer rather than portray the feelings etc... of the artist/programmer. So, by my own definition, CGI and CG Fractals are a desired result of a scientific process and not the result of a person's or group of people's expressionism or "art".
  15. Oct 14, 2008 #14
    The difference between science and art, I think, is that the products of art the 'art' itself does not exist without the context of a human mind; whereas the products of science, the raw data the observations of phenomenon etc, do exist and have 'meaning' outside of the brain.
  16. Oct 14, 2008 #15


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    What "meaning" does "helium" have outside of a human brain?
  17. Oct 14, 2008 #16
    I would say that science deals primarily with matters of fact while art deals primarily with meaning.

    I think that comprehension is a hierarchy and can be usefully thought of as like a pyramid. At the base of the comprehension pyramid is awareness, which is followed by consciousness (awareness plus attention). Knowledge follows consciousness and understanding is at the pinnacle of the comprehension pyramid. We are aware of many more things than we are conscious of and that sort of ratio follows all the way up to understanding at the pinnacle.

    Understanding is a far step beyond knowing and is significantly different from knowing. Knowledge seeks truth whereas understanding seeks meaning.
  18. Oct 14, 2008 #17


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    By your standard here, meaning is a result of understanding. So, does that make "meaning" the pinnacle of the comprehension pyramid? I'd say not... and add that it is more a side dish of comprehension. In that, meaning is a freely associated concept that can be attributed to knowledge or a group of knowledge. For instance people often say that the phenomenon of thunder "means god is angry" or "the angels are bowling tonight".

    In John Searle's "Chinese room" thought experiment the idea of the "room" "understanding" the chinese language became very murky when "understanding" was defined as "having experienced" a phenomenon. In other words it became apparent that a computer or a mineral or any non-life form cannot "understand" a phenomenon that the living experience without having experienced it as a living entity.

    Further to your conclusion, "meaning" is assigned by the limited "understanding" of a phenomenon. That's when you get meanings like "angry gods" and what not. Meaning, of course, is also a completely relative state of mind in relation to an individual's "knowledge" of any given phenomenon.
  19. Oct 15, 2008 #18

    Meaning begins when we automatically sort out perception and focus upon that aspect of perception that is significant to us. Meaning is that which is significant to us and its importance grows as we focus more and more attention upon these beginnings.

    A statement signifies a report of fact or opinion

    An expression signifies both action and its result.

    In letters to his brother Van Gogh often expressed his thoughts about things he saw and many of which he painted. “I have a view of the Rhone—the iron bridge of Trinquetaille, in which sky and river are the clear color of absinthe, the quays a shade of lilac, the figures leaning on the parapet, blackish, the iron bridge an intense blue, with a note of vivid orange in the background, and a note of intense malachite.”

    Further into the letter Van Gogh states “I am trying to get something utterly heart-broken” in my painting. This utterance can help us see the difference between the statements of fact versus the expressiveness he hoped to produce in his painting. The final result is in fact a confluence of the description of the scene and Van Gogh’s esthetic meaning in the picture itself.

    The question of the meaning of a work of art or of any experience is often ambiguous. In fact the meaning of “meaning” is highly ambiguous.

    Words and symbols representing objects and actions, in so far as they “stand-for” them, have made meaning easily comprehended. A sign board pointing the direction and stating the mileage to Florence has meaning. But the external reference, such as this sign or an algebraic formula for the law of gravity, is not the only sense in which “meaning” has meaning. A visit to Florence will create many meanings for Florence.

    “But there are other meanings that present themselves directly as possessions of objects which are experienced…the meaning is as inherent in immediate experience as is that of a flower garden…“Science” presents statements that contain meaning in this directional sense…Esthetic art as distinct from scientific, expression as distinct from statement, does something different from leading to an experience. It constitutes one.”

    The local map provides the direction to Trinquetaille, the tourist view provides another meaning for the bridge, and Van Goth’s painting provides another meaning for the bridge. All three perspectives give meaning and each creates a different meaning than the other.

    It seems to me that analytic philosophy tells us that there is only one meaning for this bridge and that is the symbolic statement. Any denial of meaning to a work of art would seem to signify one of two things: the work of art does not have a meaning conveyable by words or symbols or the work is meaningless, it is nonsense.
  20. Oct 15, 2008 #19


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    Hi again coberst. This seems true yet I would say that significance and meaning both describe function. How does an object or event serve one's cognitive function and one's morphological function (same difference)?

    The image of the bridge provides a function for the brain. The brain is able to associate several functions with the image and existence of the bridge. When a bridge "means" "getting to the other side" this "meaning" describes a function. When the bridge provides the symbol of beauty or ugliness, it is providing the function of a symbol that defines one of these feelings in the observer. So, "meaning", which is a secondary "descriptor" of "function", is the relationship between an observer's brain and an object or event and those specific functions the event or object represent to the observer.
  21. Oct 15, 2008 #20
    The ratios of the substances, which we use language to describe as, 'helium' and 'hydrogen' in the bowels of a star will determine the future state of affairs in the affective vicinity of the star.

    The quality of meaning (my proposed usage) requires only one condition: physical existence. Observation is the tool to confirm or discover the existence of a given phenomenon.

    A page from Thoreau's Walden Pond will burn in the same manner as a page from Of Pandas and People, yet they read quite differently.

    Qualities such as beauty, profundity etc. do not arise in any context, except for in a particular complex grouping of interconnected electrochemical messenger cells.

    Qualities such as geometry, motion, relative spatial position etc. do exist and create complex systems of cause and effect whether I am here to describe them or not.

    I am not stating that art has no meaning or place of its own, simply that the distinction must be made between concepts that are alien to the universe (asfa we know) except for the apparently special case of the human being, and concepts which can and will and do apply literally universally.
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