I am reading Ramachandran’s Phantoms In The Brain.

Reflections, Pen and Ink study

How often do we ( I am assuming I am not the only one ) perceive an object in the road ahead to be something that it isn’t?  How often have we puzzled over an object’s use when we have not encountered anything like it before?  Why, when a room full of artists are asked to draw a still life of a tea set as realistically as possible, is there such variation in the shape of the teapot? Some are short and fat, some are tall and thin.

Picasso Guitars is currently at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.  Why, no matter how Picasso deconstructed the image of a guitar, do we recognize it as a guitar?

“If you look straight ahead, the entire world on your left is mapped onto your right visual cortex and the world to the right of your center of gaze is mapped onto your left visual cortex.

But the mere existence of this map does not explain seeing, for as I noted earlier, there is no little man inside watching what is displayed on the primary visual cortex.  Instead, this first map serves as a sorting and editorial office where redundant or useless information is discarded wholesale and certain defining attributes of the visual image — such as edges — are strongly emphasized.  (This is why a cartoonist can convey such a vivid picture with just a few pen strokes depicting the outlines or edges alone; he’s mimicking what your visual system is specialized to do.)” quoted from Chapter Four of Phantoms In The Brain.

Most likely, if someone has not ever seen a guitar or a stringed instrument similar to a guitar, that person will not recognize the subject of Picasso’s exhibit as a guitar.  The objects I drew in the above study will be recognized by some, but not all.  My children might recognize all of the objects because they saw them almost daily before they went to college.  My simplification of the objects combined with the brain’s simplification of the information I have drawn will be understood by some, but not all.

No wonder there is such a struggle for some viewers to accept abstract art.

As artists we must simplify shapes, colors and values.  Our eyes perceive far more than our pigments are capable of expressing.