I’m not a neuroscientist, but I’ve always been fascinated by things like expert systems, heuristics, and emergent properties in complex systems. Occasionally I’ll paint something with a clear neuro theme because it’s the clearest and most concise approach to my fascination with all of those “complexity” driven subjects. I have created ink drawings like “Biology of an Idea”, colored drawings like “Orbits of Joy”, and “Learning Circuit” (from left to right, below) and paintings like “Dendritic Echoes” and “Neural Network”.
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Neural Network is a personal favorite. It’s one of those paintings that I wasn’t sure of at first, but it keeps growing on me. And I’ve always loved the little lens lights inside it and the way they activate one by one in rows as a viewer walks across the painting. Here it is in neutral photo studio lighting and then below that in a retroreflective snapshot.
“Neural Network” acrylic on canvas with lenses and retroreflective spheres. 24×24×1.5 inches. First Image is in diffuse light, second image is in directional light.
Neural Network is a play on two core ideas. There’s a notion that’s been kicking around artificial intelligence for decades, a neural network as a heuristic that processes complex information. Of course a neural network can also be an actual biological network of neurons. Painted, poured, layered and sculpted motifs reminiscent of neurons connect across the painting and flow into one another. Under diffuse “neutral” light, the neuron image dominates, while the glass optics remain inactive and nearly invisible. With a change in viewing angle various lenses begin to manipulate the ambient light in patterns, rather like information being transmitted. Somehow it seems fitting to use light – photons – to represent information transmission.
Depending on light and viewing angle, the lenses appear “lit up”. There are no lights incorporated, only lenses that manipulate the room light. The lenses are in different conditions as the light in the room changes or as a viewer moves near the painting. The overall effect is of lines and regions of light flickering in and out and moving in the piece.
I was trying to get a “biological” feel, yet keep the idea of a network that could process bits and bytes of information. The dots are actually little spherical lenses. Different lens shapes pick up the light strongly at different conditions. The lenses also create light patterns within the painting.
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Some detail images are in the gallery below.
- Neural Networks (emergentbook.wordpress.com)
- See-Through Mouse Brains Provide Stunning 3D View of Neural Networks – Video (news.softpedia.com)