Saturday, May 19, 2012

From Art to Chemistry

I didn’t understand art very well when I was little. I thought it was useless, pointless, and boring. Art class was a pain for me, because I couldn’t figure out the purpose of it. All I can draw is straight lines, circles, and triangles.

Later in my life, as my experience grew, I noticed that art is useful in many ways. Sometimes it is used to put a message in pictures, like in road signs. Sometimes it is about creating feelings for people visiting a place like the decoration of modern hotels or traditional Chinese restaurants. After realizing this, I began to wonder how artists create things that look beautiful and interesting among so many possibilities. What exactly in art makes us feel that way?

I think the relationship between neuroscience and art is similar to that between physics and chemistry. Physicists are trying to know the basic workings of atoms and particles. Chemists are dealing with the function of different combinations of atoms. Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system, the inner workings of the brain, and human psychology. And I think what artists are trying to do is use tools to interact with our brains without first knowing how our brains work. This is not a bad thing because chemists in the 19th century also knew so much about many chemical elements and made great use of them without first knowing exactly how atoms work.

For me, art is just like a chemistry experiment. Artists put many colors, materials, shapes, and sounds together to see what happens when people see them. Chemists add different combinations of elements with different temperatures and quantities together to see what they will produce. I think modern art, which has a tendency toward abstraction, is the very attempt to try to simplify the variables involved just like what we do in science. However, it is still too early to say we can completely understand the complexity and sophistication of art through science.