In place of epilogue

This book has no epi­logue. It is mere­ly an intro­duc­tion to neu­rocog­ni­tive the­o­ry of image, hence it is dif­fi­cult to write the end­ing to the intro­duc­tion. I have indi­cat­ed sev­er­al impor­tant issues here­in, which undoubt­ed­ly con­sti­tute the foun­da­tions for such a the­o­ry. It is impos­si­ble to com­pre­hend a paint­ing with­out under­stand­ing how a sub­jec­tive expe­ri­ence of see­ing out­lines, col­ors and space is cre­at­ed, not to men­tion the aes­thet­ic sen­sa­tions accom­pa­ny­ing its view­ing. How­ev­er, I know that not every­thing was told. There­fore, instead of epi­logue, I decid­ed to write about what is not con­tained in this book’s edi­tion and what undoubt­ed­ly should be includ­ed in the next ones.

When writ­ing this mono­graph, I want­ed the knowl­edge con­tained here­in to be cer­tain. Obvi­ous­ly, as far as one can be sure of the­o­ries for­mu­lat­ed on the basis of sci­ence. That is why I often referred to those research results which – as the his­to­ry of sci­ence has shown – revealed dis­cov­er­ies that set new trends in research. I adopt­ed exact­ly the same strat­e­gy by choos­ing works of art to illus­trate var­i­ous visu­al effects. As it can be eas­i­ly noticed, the vast major­i­ty of them are recog­nised mas­ter­pieces that have enabled the next gen­er­a­tions of artists to look at real­i­ty in a new way. I think it would be worth enrich­ing the knowl­edge con­tained in this book, both in the field of sci­ence and art, with more con­tem­po­rary sci­en­tif­ic dis­cov­er­ies in the range of vision and inno­v­a­tive, artis­tic imple­men­ta­tions in the field of art.

In the part of the book devot­ed to col­or, there is no space for a wider dis­cus­sion of sev­er­al impor­tant issues. First of all, the con­tent of this part should be enriched with clar­i­fy­ing the rules of col­or con­stan­cy, the foun­da­tions of which are found in the retinex the­o­ry devel­oped by Edwin Land. Sec­ond­ly, the issue of cor­ti­cal col­or vision should be pre­sent­ed more broad­ly, espe­cial­ly on the basis of the results of Semir Zek­i’s research, who – by the way – will­ing­ly and often referred to the works of emi­nent painters in his pub­li­ca­tions. Third­ly, it would be worth recall­ing and at least briefly dis­cussing some con­tem­po­rary, math­e­mat­i­cal and opti­cal col­or vision mod­els. Fourth­ly, one should at least address some issues relat­ed to col­or seman­tics, which is the sub­ject of much con­tro­ver­sy, not only in the field of art history.

The chap­ter con­cern­ing depth should be sig­nif­i­cant­ly enlarged to include con­tent relat­ed to all known indi­ca­tors of third dimen­sion in monoc­u­lar vision. In par­tic­u­lar, the impor­tant and extreme­ly inter­est­ing issue of per­spec­tive should be dis­cussed in all its aspects, i.e. zero‑, one- and mul­ti-point per­spec­tives, as well as lin­ear and curvi­lin­ear ones. Also oth­er monoc­u­lar depth indi­ca­tors are worth dis­cussing and explain­ing on the basis of the neu­rocog­ni­tive stud­ies’ results. It would also be advis­able to devote more space to the ver­gence reflex­es, which, as it turns out, also occur when view­ing flat paintings.

In turn, the chap­ter on beau­ty can undoubt­ed­ly be enlarged not only with the results of new ocu­lo­graph­ic stud­ies, but also with reports on neuroimaging‑, EEG- and psy­chophys­i­o­log­i­cal data col­lect­ed dur­ing view­ing and aes­thet­ic eval­u­a­tion of paint­ings. Neu­roaes­thet­ics is one of the fields of neu­ro­science and stud­ies con­duct­ed in this field reveal many inter­est­ing rela­tion­ships between the activ­i­ty of dif­fer­ent brain struc­tures and sub­jec­tive­ly sensed aes­thet­ic expe­ri­ences. In response to the research results on the beau­ty of Wilanów por­traits, we have recent­ly con­duct­ed a whole series of ocu­lo­graph­ic exper­i­ments on the aes­thet­ic eval­u­a­tion of the works of: Paul Klee, Wasil Kandin­sky, Zdzisław Bek­sińs­ki, Chris Berens and out­stand­ing col­orists: Hen­ri Matisse, Vin­cent van Gogh, Paul Gau­guin and Emil Nolde. Their results shed inter­est­ing light on the ocu­lo­mo­tor strate­gies used dur­ing view­ing and eval­u­at­ing these works.

Regard­ing all parts of this book, two addi­tion­al cat­e­gories of issues would be worth intro­duc­ing as well. The first cat­e­go­ry would con­cern opti­cal illu­sions and tricks where­as the sec­ond one would con­cern the process of see­ing in the con­text of its dis­tur­bances and dys­func­tion­al­i­ty. On the one hand, opti­cal illu­sions and tricks are phe­nom­e­na that dis­turb researchers on vision until they dis­cov­er the neu­ro­log­i­cal mech­a­nism respon­si­ble for them. This was the case with, e.g. Ernst Mach’s bands or Ludi­mar Her­man­n’s grid. In most cas­es, how­ev­er, the neu­ronal basis for opti­cal illu­sions is unknown. On the oth­er hand, these illu­sions leave the room for exper­i­ment­ing by the authors of paint­ings, espe­cial­ly those from the op-art cir­cle. Per­haps at the cross­roads of these two fields it is pos­si­ble to explain at least some of them.

I con­sid­er the issue of visu­al dis­tur­bances to be extreme­ly impor­tant, and, above all, heuris­ti­cal­ly fer­tile. In this book, I only described briefly two exam­ples, writ­ing about the artis­tic effects of Vin­cent van Gogh’s and William Uter­mohlen’s neu­ro­log­i­cal prob­lems. Visu­al path­way dis­or­ders with a diag­nosed eti­ol­o­gy clear­ly raise aware­ness of how nor­mal vision mech­a­nism func­tions and what role it plays in per­ceiv­ing real­i­ty. A painter pro­ject­ing his state of mind on a can­vas stretched on a stretch­er bar is like a func­tion­al scan­ner for neu­roimag­ing. View­ing the paint­ing gives you the unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to look into the artist’s mind. One just has to learn how to read these scans.

In addi­tion to detailed issues regard­ing the enlarge­ment of indi­vid­ual chap­ters, it would cer­tain­ly be advis­able to slow­ly approach the orig­i­nal book design. First of all, one should take up the issues of move­ment and three-dimen­sion­al space. Both of these issues are close­ly relat­ed. Dis­cussing them would end the issue of ear­ly stages of visu­al path­ways and simul­ta­ne­ous­ly would open up for new neu­rocog­ni­tive explo­ration with­in a wider group of media. Obvi­ous­ly, the inclu­sion of issues relat­ed to the audi­al medi­um in this sto­ry would be a great cul­mi­na­tion of work, but let me not devel­op this thread for now, treat­ing it as a far-reach­ing goal, after reach­ing those that I have already noticed.

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