Exploring ways of seeing

Something that excites me about studying the visual system is that much of what we experience when seeing is created internally. For example, the colours that we see do not exist out there in the world, but are generated by our brain. Our brain cells convert light into an electrical signal that we interpret as colour. In a sense, the world ‘out there’ is actually colourless.

A schematic of the human visual system
A schematic of the human visual system

One artist who uses colour in a novel way is James Turrell. By providing us with only light, Turrell allows our minds to wander and generate new sensations from extremely minimal input. Having a background in psychology himself, Turell heralds a new era for artists looking to combine art and science.

‘Seeing’ in a scientific sense is something that artists are only beginning to explore. As artists, we can learn a lot from the science–inspired methods of Turrell. It is my view that we can make progress by learning more about the science of how we see the world. This new knowledge may bring new frontiers in artistic exploration.

See! Colour! (2011) Järna, Sweden
James Turrell, See! Colour! (2011) Järna, Sweden
James Turrell
James Turrell, Raethro Green, (1968), light installation, dimensions variable

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