Science and art

I am both an artist and a scientist. My passion for art started from science.

Years ago I was working as a research scientist on computer vision technology for the automatic detection of faces on digital pictures. Nowadays with recent brake-throughs on artificial intelligence, detecting and even recognizing faces has become a commodity available on many smart phone camera’s. At the time automatic face detection was based on various simple patterns of light-dark transitions known in science as “Haar features”. A human face in a digital image has a specific signature, a specific combination of “Haar features”, which can be taught to a computer using a technology called “machine learning”.

The human visual system works in a very similar way and recognizes objects after feature detection. This was demonstrated with the famous “cat experiments” conducted in the fifties and sixties by Nobel prize winners Hubel and Wiesel. The visual system constructs complex representations of visual information from simple stimulus features. Specialized neurons in the visual cortex of the brain fire when certain visual features appear, for example an edge of specific length and orientation, or an edge moving at a specific velocity in a specific direction.

I am fascinated by the brain’s capability to recognize images painted with only a few well-placed brush strokes. These few brush strokes must be of the right size and orientation, much like the “Haar features”, and have the right contrast to neighboring brush strokes. The artist herewith achieves a realistic painting while leaving much room to the imagination and surprise of the observer.