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Art as brain food: how art inspires imagination

Updated on May 1, 2016
Image of a Renoir painting
Image of a Renoir painting | Source

Art as "brain food"? Maybe the title of this piece seems a little silly? It's often been said that people are either right-brainers or left-brainers. People with leanings towards the right brain activities could be said to be more artistic, while people leaning towards left-brain behaviours might be termed more scientific. Modern research proves this is not the case.

Going back in history, Albert Einstein once said: "The greatest scientists are artists as well." He played the violin and believed that the insight used to produce his theories was not merely a result of the use of logic but a direct result of the use of intuition and inspiration, he said the gift of imagination had been more valuable than any skills in acquiring or absorbing knowledge. To Einstein, thought was not a logical progression of symbols leading to greater scientific knowledge but intuitive leaps and use of imagery. musical architectures and feelings which were only transcribed into words or mathematical symbols after the thoughts occurred.

Use of art as stimulation

Neuroscientists now recognise just how art impacts on social, cognitive and emotional development, with just about every culture on earth possessing art forms of some kind. It's understood the visual arts can excite the internal processing area of the brain to either recall reality or create fantasies. In every day use, displaying wall art within our home environment could help instill positive neural connections in our young kids that help wire their brains for successful studies. It's certain, though, that choosing the right types of artwork to display on walls provides a decorative effect that can allow imaginations to run riot, promote soothing or dreamlike moments in time or give inspiration to continue the framework of a working day.

Recent American university studies and research indicate children exposed to visual art forms have corresponding levels of correlated brain activity in relation to maths skills (page 57 of third linked document), music appreciation and instrument practice is also understood to significantly raise academic levels in reading and literacy (see pages 58 and 59).

Pointilism painting was done by Seurat
Pointilism painting was done by Seurat | Source

Right and left brain activities

It certainly does appear that encouraging what's historically known as "right brain" interactions and use benefits any individual by way of allowing creativity and greater internal focus. While constant exposure to art and great works of art may encourage children or adults to begin making their own creative works of art, appreciating arts also gives added opportunities for use of what is euphemistically termed the "left brain" more often associated with logic and analysis. An interesting article in The Guardian newspaper points out the left/right brain fallacy and how it arose in the 1800s, while a study coordinated by Harvard University indicates just how important creative arts are to developing our children's learning skills and potential.

It can be seen from the above that merely labelling ourselves as right or left brain users is not the way ahead, learning is also possible into very late years as the brain continues to develop through our lifetimes.

Leonardo da Vinci had wide and varied interests
Leonardo da Vinci had wide and varied interests | Source

Art perspectives in the home

From the perspective of the artworks we choose to display on walls in our homes or workplace then, the very best approach you can take is to find the types of art that you find personally appealing and showcase them proudly in your environment.

Choosing a print of a great work of art to enhance your d├ęcor is a case of finding works that act in harmony with the interior decorations in the environment, and it's up to you whether you choose realist, impressionist, surreal, modern or abstract images. Taking time out to visit art galleries or study works online will give you an indication of types of work that you prefer and are likely to fit in with your colour schemes in the home.

You're certainly spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing works of art as there are so many excellent prints available of works from grand masters and contemporary popular artists, as well as choices of popular works from different ethnic groups and communities that display a little of local history or social comment. Don't be afraid to take colour swatches into galleries or boutiques to check out whether your chosen artworks will be displayed to best advantage in their chosen location. A thoughtfully displayed piece of artwork that is well coordinated to its hanging space can only add positive interactions to the home or work environment, as it will generate comment or introspection from colleagues, visitors or members of the family.

Colin Goldberg image
Colin Goldberg image | Source

Will we ever fully understand the workings of the human brain?

Science and research moves closer to understanding the workings of the human brain, but our brains are such complex structures it seems unlikely their studies will reveal the full intricacies and workings of the brain in the near future. It does seem the more we utilize our brains, the better we become at certain activities, whether they are studies, artistic creations, scientific experimentation or analysis. Slumping in front of the TV every day is probably not going to stimulate much brain activity unless a person is actively engaging and thinking about the visual and audio stimulations received.


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