This Post provides a link to Chapter 9 of “What Scientists can Learn from Artists”, the book that presents the science that supports so many of the ideas and proposals found in my other three books. Its full title is “Blindsight, unilateral neglect and the bakery facade illusion”. It recounts what for me was a particularly exciting adventure into the mysteries of eye/brain function. This had its origins in research I was doing at the University of Stirling, Scotland, and reached its conclusion here in Montmiral, as a result of trying to understand why a student, who was good at drawing accurately, persisted in seeing the slope of a wall top differently from three other people sitting close to him. It turned out to be a question of his being taller than them and, as a result, he was relating the wall top to a slightly different background, with fascinating consequences: Ones which were to provide the substance not only of the chapter to which this Post is linked, but also of a closely related chapter in my book on drawing.*
The bringing together information about “blindsight”, “unilateral neglect” and “The bakery facade illusion” provides yet another approach to making clear that the process of “seeing” is complex. It also presents evidence that lead to two paradoxes, namely that:
- we can all “see” what we cannot see
- we can all “imagine” what we cannot imagine”.
Luckily knowledge of eye/brain systems can make sense of these seemingly senseless propositions. Also, it can alert artists to some deep seated problems they cannot avoid facing when drawing or painting from observation.
As I usually do when presenting book chapters, I am providing below an edited version of the “Introductory” to the chapter in question in the hope that it will whet your appetite for reading the chapter itself.
This chapter delves a little deeper into the subject of visual mechanisms and systems. It is one of the most important in the book because it provides information concerning the central problem as to how preconscious, bottom-up processes enable top-down control of the skilled use of eye/hand coordination. The first part takes the form of a detective story. The key to unlocking the mystery lies hidden in two experiments, relating to two visual impairment syndromes, each resulting from damage to a different part of the brain. Though other syndromes can be legitimately given the same names, they will be referred to as “blindsight” and “unilateral-neglect”. The second part of the chapter describes a powerful visual illusion, first noticed in relation to the facade of a building in Castelnau de Montmiral, S.W. France. This is shown to have general implications both for artists trying to depict scenes containing rectangular surfaces and for psychologists of perception, trying to understand the mechanisms underlying analytic-looking.
* “Axes of symmetry, recession and the constancies”: A chapter from my book on drawing that shows some of the ways the theory in this more scientific chapter can be related to practice.
Other chapters from “What Scientists can Learn from Artists”
Like the chapter to which this Post is linked, the links below can be used to access chapters from the middle section of my book that elaborates on the science behind subjects that feature in the other volumes:
- Chapter 11 – Body colour and local colour interactions
- Chapter 12 – Colour constancy
- Chapter 15 – The other constancies