Pierre Bonnard at the Tate: the surprising reasons we love art - Deepstash

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Why we like art

Art is most exciting when it creates states of psychological conflict, confusion, or dissonance.

While in other circumstances, such an onslaught might make us run a mile, with art, we are held transfixed.

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Visual indeterminacy

It occurs when we are presented with something that we don't immediately recognize. It creates a degree of cognitive dissonance that may be frustrating or even unpleasant.

For example, seeing a vague shape in the corner of a room that might be a cat or a bag. A second look is needed to satisfy our curiosity.

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Color conflicts

Complementary colors lie opposite one another on the spectrum. For example, red complements blue, yellow complements violet.

When complementary colors are placed in close proximity, it is apt to cause conflict and disturb the eyes. Used subtly, it can make our eyes dance to a discordant tune.

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Equiluminance

When we convert a painting to monochrome, the level of light coming from each area is equal.

This confuses the parts of the brain that process color and luminance, and throw our senses of color and light into conflict.

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A logical impossibility

In representational art, figurative paintings contain a logical impossibility - we see one thing (the painting), which is, at the same time, another thing (what it depicts).

The tension or contradictions between the material and representational layers in artwork contribute to the excitement and puzzlement we can experience with art.

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