WHY BE INTERESTED?
Art, like science, can have an interest in nature
that tries to avoid preconception. My own starting point as an
artist is that I don't know what's there.
At the time of Humphrey Davey, Constable and Coleridge,
science was still called natural philosophy
and art and science were felt to be branches of
the same enterprise (Richard Holmes' The Age of Wonder).
In 1900, Cézanne showed a similar view when he called his
recherche. However, subsequent modernist painting
more or less abandoned the observational, empirical
I see the diversity of individualist realist syles
at the end of the ninteenth century not as an end but as a
beginning. The pictorial exploration of visual experience will
always discover new things for visual art. Moreover, in the
twentyfirst century, there is a huge amount of new cognitive
science to help things along.
In recent years the position of observational
painting has been depressed by the dominance of discourse theory -
a child of the Cartesian spiit between mind and body. Humanities,
in German Geisteswissenscchaften, and sciences,
Naturwissesnschaften, are institutionally split, and art
schools find themselves aligned with geist, not
natur. Humanities students study discourse as a world of
words, detached from the demonstrable facts of the physical
universe, a disaster that produces tensions and
ignorance on both sides.
But all is not lost! From both sides of the wall,
'vertical integration' is on the horizon : see Edward
Slingerland's What Science Offers The
Human visual perception is exactly that - human
seeing. So the areas of science most relevant for art tend to
bridge the inner and outer worlds, like experimental psycology,
neurology and image processing. Man made,
observation-based images can be thought of as an
expressive interface between object and subject.
How we think about what we see effects what
we see, so specialist knowledge can be
useful too. For example, a geologist can tell you things about
rocks that will sharpen your perception of the structure of a
waterfall; or a pilot can describe the cloud base in a way that can
transform your visual grasp of a skyscape.
Technology, especially digital technology, can help
too. For example, the availability of colourmetrically accurate
digital cameras has opened up new possibilities for image analysis
and visual exploration.
With the help of scientist friends I'm trying
out some ideas about seeing water. We're also exploring creative
links between painting, colour perception and
introduce some themes, and notes will be added as we
progress or otherwise.
a method of digital mapping
to help paint natural colour
experience click here.