Research Week - Visual Exploration of Abstract Art

It is difficult, Jen notes, to analyse the vast quantity of information which bears down upon us every day. Jen's research focusses on vision in order to mitigate this somewhat, but she recognises that all the other senses are incredibly influential in perception too.

She sets out to answer the question about what our task is when looking at art? It is difficult to investigate the impact of art, particularly representational art, because it comes with so many external conceptions and issues around it. But abstract art, on the other hand, conforms to these constraints less often, so Jen chooses to use it as the main subject for her research.

She's using a very complicated and clever machine called and eye tracker. It's a great thing, I'd really like to play with it! She's used them both in the Lab and in New Walk Museum, and the results are really interesting. She has found that there are distinct differences in the way that people of different backgrounds perceive art, particularly in terms of it's monetary value, based upon whether they feel experienced in that area.

But the main thrust of her research overall is based upon the impact of art upon wellbeing. To measure this - to the extent to which you can - she has conducted semi-structured interviews, mental wellbeing and anxiety scale tests to show the effect which they have. One of the interesting point which she noted in the resposes is that people tended to make things representative - if they could be reminded of something by a peice of abstract art, they tended to like it more. But if you dislike something, it does not, as Richard and Jen note, mean that your mental wellbeing is adversely affected. Rather, there is much you can learn from.

Its a great project, and a great toy to play with! I'm looking forward to seeing more. Well done, Jen, and thank you!


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