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The Art of Mind

Mental States From Bosch To Munch

In Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights, a triptych now over 500 years old, a vision of sin and morality is offered illustrating quite clearly the hell associated with our own actions and the hell of other people. Luxuria, fornicatio, tristitia - various cardinal sins are depicted here, with the addition of a few variations such as torture and mutilation. In Der Schrei der Natur (The Scream of Nature ), Edvard Munch represents on canvas a scream passing through nature. And yet the imagery in this painting has also been linked to bipolar disorder, depersonalisation disorder and even trigeminal neuralgia. Historically, art has been consistently influenced by the prevailing beliefs and science of the era and this lecture will explore the links between art and mind, examining various notable paintings and considering their links to mental life.  In the first half of the twentieth century, classical psychoanalysis dominated the artist’s view of the mind. The links between the scuola metafisica and surrealist movements (the art of de Chirico and Breton) and the theories of Freud have been well documented. In the latter half of the century, the focus turned to  transpersonal experience, chemically induced visions, and the mind-body connection. In recent years, developments in neuroscience have impacted the visual arts, in an existential rather than empirical sense. From portrayal of dementia and cancer to representations of cognitive psychotherapy and new imaging technologies, various issues in modern conceptions of brain and mind will be briefly addressed. How does the brain process art and is there a cerebral localisation of neuroaesthetic sensibility? For the scientist and the artist in all of us.

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