Inner Vision: An Exploration of Art and the Brain
by Semir Zeki
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What is it that makes a work of art appear to us as beautiful? How do external form and internal perception coalesce to create the distinctive aesthetic pleasures we look to find in the visual arts? In Inner Vision, one of the founders of visual neuroscience, Semir Zeki, offers the first attempt to apply the science of vision to painting and sculpture, revealing how the conception, execution, and appreciation of the visual arts are all shaped by the anatomy of the brain. Using a range of examples from artists including Rembrandt, Vermeer, Magritte, Mondrian, and Picasso, Zeki takes the reader on an illuminating tour of the way the brain sees, showing how its visual processing shapes art and our response to it. Vision, he writes, is designed to gather knowledge about the world around us, breaking down visual images into their basic components. He describes in fascinating detail how different areas of the brain respond to the basic visual elements, such as color, form, line, and motion, which are also basic elements of art. He further argues that all visual art is expressed through the brain and, whether the artist realizes it or not, must therefore mirror the workings of the brain. Beauty may not be in the eye of the beholder, strictly speaking, but it most certainly is in the brain of the beholder. And Zeki argues that no theory of aesthetics will be complete unless it is substantially based on the activity of the brain. Beautifully illustrated and vividly written, Inner Vision takes an important first step toward providing a scientific theory of aesthetics.
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