HOW TO LOOK AT ART

Creativityhood of art and science

It is not the ‘cultural divide’ that is a hindrance to solving the world’s problems.

In Summary
  • Creative process is central to both art and science and it is the same in each discipline.
  • Art and science are not autonomous. They are here to create meaning, change people, transform societies and enable human evolution.
‘The power of _A_s’, acrylic by Alpha Odhiambo, 21, Nairobi, participant of MASK Prize 2019.
‘The power of _A_s’, acrylic by Alpha Odhiambo, 21, Nairobi, participant of MASK Prize 2019.
Image: MASK

The division between art and science decimates education. Our society still believes that art and science attract different types of minds: art attracts the creative mind and science the analytical brain.

In 1959, British scientist and novelist CP Snow described this division as ‘cultural divide’ which he considered to be a major hindrance to solving the world’s problems.

Snow said that the intellectual life was split into the two cultures, the sciences and humanities, when scientists do not read good literature and artists do not know much about science.

The problem is wider. It is not the ‘cultural divide’ that is a hindrance to solving the world’s problems but “much more serious ailment of our civilization is the lack of visual training, or even contempt of it,” says art theorist and psychologist Rudolf Arnheim.

Creative individuals across all disciplines think in images. Creativity is visual thinking and it demands specialised training.

The intelligent vision must not be confined to the art studio. Scientists too must learn the principles of how to bridge the gap between the complexity of primary visual observation and the final imagery that represents that complexity. They need to learn how to look and see, analyse the visual information and select it against goals and challenges.

The art-science division will persist until we begin to understand creativity as visual thinking and prioritise the visual training in our education. Only then will we have a breakthrough in the education system and only then will art and science achieve creativityhood and never again have to stand alone.

They should be fluid at the art of abstracting images and discerning its structure and patterns. They have to master the skill of forming visual associations, connecting them to meaning, and transforming them into new identities.

The art-science division will persist until we begin to understand creativity as visual thinking and prioritise the visual training in our education. Only then will we have a breakthrough in the education system and only then will art and science achieve creativityhood and never again have to stand alone.

Creative process is central to both art and science and it is the same in each discipline. Artists experiment with medium and invent new symbolic language. They look beyond the obvious and see the world not only for its beauty and form but for its structure and alternatives.

Pushing boundaries in culture they influence change in society. Cubist artists represented objects from multitude viewpoints and advanced society’s understanding of modern democracy. Constructivists applied their art to industrial design and shaped economies and the environment we live in. Pointivists mixing colours optically in the eye of the viewer influenced modern CMYK and RGB techniques used in today’s printing, TV and computer monitors.

Scientists experience the less explicit, but no less important, relation to creativity. No one would dispute that scientific discoveries are the evidence of powerful ingenuity.

‘Scientists are artists as well’, said Albert Einstein. A Nobel Prize chemist is no less original than Picasso.

Fabiola Gianotti, a physicist and the Director of the Large Hadron Collider says: ‘Too often people put science and the arts in different silos. Art and science are the highest expressions of curiosity and humanity. I was a curious child, I wanted to answer the big questions of how the universe works. My art studies as much as physics have contributed to what I am today as a scientist.”

Art and science are not autonomous. They are here to create meaning, change people, transform societies and enable human evolution. Through them we understand ourselves and explore the forces that shape our existence. They differ only in that art welcomes the multiplicity of experience.

Diversity of responses to the reality is as valid in art as the reality itself. Images are statements that contain the forces they convey; all its elements surrender to the message. Science looks for the one correct answer that hides among the multiple experience, images are illustrations that point to that answer.

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