A quick view walking past Ralph Kerle's Gallery with his new works from Australia, Portugal and Dubai
Often when I see an image for the first time I think is worthy of being a potential new piece, I attempt to title it. Sometimes the title comes immediately. The abstraction in the work is apparent at first glance and will name itself. At other times, titling the work is a real challenge. Sometimes an artwork will simply not give up a title that seems a suitable descriptor for the content in the work.
In my favourite current read “the Age of Insight” , written by Eric Kandel, Nobel Prize Winner and Founder, the Center of Neurobiology and Behaviour, Columbia University, offers an interesting explanation as to why this might be the case.
Kandel suggests our brains have an upward and downwards sensemaking operating mechanism. In the front of our forehead lies the thalamus. This part of the brain operates as a major learning mechanism through its interactions with the external world. It is here where the brain first encounters the experience of seeing, hearing, smellingetc before it enters the cerebral cortex. At the back of our skull lies the hindbrain made up of the cerebellum, pons and medulla, the repository of our genetically pre-disposed sense of being. It is the part of the brain that deals with our innate sense of survival.
A connection along the brain’s synapses must occur between these two elements for us to make sense of our world. These connections occur rapidly, continually in the moment, as we sense and filter the stimuli in the world in which we live.
Therefore it is not uncommon, indeed some would argue it is common, for external stimuli the brain doesn’t immediately recognizes, results in an illusion. The brain needs to have an immediate answer for what we are experiencing in the moment so it can ready itself for its next moment of perception.
Kandel calls this phenomenon “unconscious inference.” This is what I am experiencing when my brain can’t quickly give a title to one of my works.
I tried and tried to name this new piece. The elements in my brain failed to make a meaningful connection so I have titled it “Unconscious Inference 2” the second piece to hold this nomenclature. May be there is an exhibition in the offering.
Perhaps your brain might perceive this differently, make a quick connection and come up with a better title. How did your brain experience this visual? I'd love to know.
WelcomeToArt Gallery, Embaixada, Principe Real, Lisbon, Portugal
I was honoured to be asked to participate in a new group exhibition at the WelcomeToArt Art Gallery in one of Lisbon’s hip new concept/gallery spaces, Embaixada, Praça do príncipe real 26,1° 1250-184.
The exhibition included three up and coming Portuguese photographers Teresa Marques dos Santos, Jorje and award winning José Esteves Martins providing me with an opportunity to expose my work and to interact with the Portuguese fine art photographic community.
Following the exhibition opening, I went on a location scout along the coast line and water ways of Portugal that will result a series of new works out of Portugal in 2019. This first work comes from Aveiro in northern Portugal often referred to as the Venice of Portugal. This work has opened up a new theme that I have entitled Buildings on Water,
Buildings on Water 1, Aveiro Portugal. 1600 x 1061mm
A Good Eye
Regularly viewers of my work tell me I have a “good” eye. The reality is I have very very bad eyesight. I have a serious eye condition known as keratoconus. Keratoconus is the slow deterioration and ultimate death of the muscles in the cornea, the surface of the eye. In the mid-1980s I had a corneal transplant that reclaimed sight in my right eye and I am legally blind in my left eye without a hard contact lens that holds my deteriorating cornea in place for the moment.
A recent trip to my eye surgeon provided totally unexpected insight – the pun is intended – as to how this condition plays into my artistic practice and why I see the world the way I do.
The surgeon had sitting in on the consultation a trainee ophthalmologist and in a brief exchange between the two as the surgeon was looking into my eyes through his phoropter, the surgeon explained keratoconus sufferers see the world in a unique way.
A normal cornea has the firmness and shape of a camera lens allowing the brain immediate focus in any given moment. On the other hand, keratoconus sufferers are always seeing shapes with slightly blurred or haloed edges. Their brains have learnt to accept this abnormality in focus searching for movement and stillness to enable perception as distinct from those with normal eyesight whose brains register immediate sharpness on focus. The images I create come as a result of my brain harnessing the uniqueness of the way my eyes see the world. I am often asked by viewers “what am I looking at ?”and on reflection the viewer is observing my subconscious at work, actively interacting with my impaired body - specifically my deeply damaged eyesight..
At last, an explanation perhaps for the “good” eye.
I love discovering new works, trying to make sense of them and how they speak to me as I create and name them. In the process, I try constantly to find ways of describing the thinking behind my creative work concisely. I recently finished reading Reductionism in Art and Brain Science – Bridging the Two Cultures by the 2000 Nobel Prize Winner in Physiology or Medicine, Eric Kandel. The book is a superb short easy read on the emergence of abstract art in the 20th century and its connection with the field of psychology, a relatively recent scientific development.
“…The brain specializes in extracting meaningful patterns from the input it receives, even when that input is extremely noisy. This psychological phenomenon is referred to as pareidolia, in which a vague, random stimulus is perceived as significant.”
This is not a recent observation. In 15th Century, Leonardo Da Vinci wrote of this capability in his notebooks:
:…If you look at any walls spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are about to invent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills. You will also be able to see diverse combats and figures in quick movement, and strange expressions of faces, and outlandish costumes, and an infinite number of things which you can then reduce into separate and well-conceived forms….”
Kandel's writing has given me a way of explaining my creative process and why it evokes such a hugely diverse range of perceptions from my viewers. Perception creates pareidolia in the viewer by asking the profound question: “How do you impose order on randomness?"
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