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.