Art and the eye of the beholder

Posted by pt91 at Dec 09, 2011 11:10 AM |
New exhibition from 4 January uses art to explore the science of visual perception
Art and the eye of the beholder

'Pollock's Space' by Mariano Molina.

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 9 December 2011

Images of artworks available from

What goes on in our brain when we look at a work of art?

Some answers to this question will be in evidence at an exhibition at Embrace Arts, the University of Leicester’s arts centre, from Wednesday 4 January to Friday 27 January 2012.

‘The art of visual perception’ will present the results of a unique collaboration between the art of Argentine artist Mariano Molina and research findings from the University of Leicester neuroscientist and Professor of Bioengineering Rodrigo Quian Quiroga.

In the exhibition Molina’s work will incorporate principles of visual perception identified through neuroscience, and the canvases will be accompanied by explanations of how these principles work.

For those who would like to know more, on Thursday 12 January, between 6pm-8pm, Rodrigo Quian Quiroga will be ‘in conversation’ at Embrace Arts.   The event is free but prior booking is essential, through Embrace Arts.

Both Mariano Molina and Rodrigo Quian Quiroga are fascinated by visual perception and optical illusions, which offer an insight into how the brain processes information, and Molina’s work on display at Embrace Arts will reflect this.

The work of Professor Quian Quiroga attracted media attention round the world when he discovered that one neuron in the brain will fire to images of, for instance, Jennifer Aniston, another one to Halle Berry, another one to the Sydney Opera House, etc.

He has since worked on a research project using eye tracking technology to quantitatively show the substantial difference between viewing art in an art gallery and digitally in a computer screen.

Rodrigo Quian Quiroga holds a Research Chair at the University of Leicester and he is the director of the newly created Bioengineering Research Centre. His research exploring principles of visual perceptions with Mariano Molina during the period when the artist was in residence in his laboratory has also met with much interest from the international press.

The beat of the crowd 300
'The beat of the crowd.'
Professor Quian Quiroga commented:  “Having Mariano in our lab was a unique opportunity to start bridging the gaps between science and arts, a topic in which I am also collaborating with my colleague Dr. Sandra Dudley, from Museum Studies. It is really a pity that scientists take art as a hobby or pleasure, not as something that can help us in our own research. Those studying visual perception, for example, have a lot to gain from the interaction with visual artists like Mariano and I am very thankful to the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Beyond Text programme for making this possible.

“The interaction with him has been fascinating, especially when seeing how the discussion of different ideas emerged in each canvas. I’m really pleased with the results of this rotation and the work that will be shown at the Embrace Arts. On the one hand, these art pieces are an excellent way to show principles of visual perception in action and, on the other hand, they have an artistic value and a dose of originality since they use some neuroscience principles that are largely unknown to artists. I believe some of these pieces will certainly surprise the viewers.”

Out of control I
'Out of control I'
Mariano Molina comes from Buenos Aires in Argentina and had spent several month in Leicester, as an artist-in-residence working with Professor Quian Quiroga. He studied at the National School of Fine Arts and at Luis Felipe Noe’s workshop in his home country.

He has received a long list of prizes, awards and residencies in England, Argentina, the USA, Denmark, Bolivia and Canada, and his work in solo and group exhibitions around the world has been internationally acclaimed.

Mariano Molina said:  “The experience I have had creating this exhibition with Rodrigo has been extraordinary. I would never have got such deep knowledge about visual perception principles and related scientific issues without this residency. This has also been an exceptional opportunity to explore new and old paintings techniques to show these principles. The journey to get to the final artworks has been very enriching in many ways.

“I am very grateful to Evelyn Welch and the AHRC Beyond Text Programme, to Rodrigo and his lab team, to Stella Couloutbanis from Embrace Arts and to the Staff of the Engineering Department.”

‘The art of visual perception’ is the result of a project funded by the Beyond Text Programme of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The exhibition takes place at Embrace Arts, Lancaster Road, Leicester from Wednesday 4 January to Friday 27 January. Admission is free and the Embrace Arts gallery is open between 10am and 6pm Monday to Friday.  For weekend opening hours please contact Embrace Arts box office: 0116 252 2455.


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Notes to Editors: Further details are available from Rodrigo Quian Quiroga, Professor of Bioengineering, Department of Engineering, University of Leicester, tel +44 (0)116 252 2314/2619, email

Also from Stella Couloutbanis, Visual Arts Manager, Embrace Arts, tel 0116 223 1529, email

Embrace Arts

As the University of Leicester’s arts centre, Embrace Arts offers opportunities to everyone to participate without barriers in ways that challenge and inspire.

Its welcoming 120-seater performance area, art studios, extensive exhibition gallery and bright foyer space enable people to engage with the arts as audiences, performers and learners.

Still one of the few arts venues that can boast a fully-accessible facility, Embrace Arts provides a focal point for cultural life on campus and in the wider community.

More information is available at

The Beyond Text research programme aims to support a multidisciplinary community of scholars and practitioners drawn from Higher Education, museums, galleries, libraries, business, policy, media, technology and the law to explore the ways in which communication is articulated, transmitted, received and controlled. It also aims to enhance the connections between those who make and preserve works, and those who study them.  Beyond Text centres on five thematic, interdisciplinary areas: Making and Unmaking; Performance, Improvisation and Embodied Knowledge; Technology, Innovation and Tradition; mediations; Transmission and Memory. These themes provide a framework to investigate the formation and transformations of performances, sounds, images, and objects in a wide field of social, historical and geographical contexts, tracing their reception, assimilation and adaptation across temporal and cultural boundaries. The programme has a budget of £5.5 million over 5 years and runs from 2007 to 2012.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC): Each year the AHRC provides approximately £100 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from languages and law, archaeology and English literature to design and creative and performing arts. In any one year, the AHRC makes hundreds of research awards ranging from individual fellowships to major collaborative projects as well as over 1,100 studentship awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.

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