Mirror Neurons and Painting Neurons: Reflections on Four Hands Painting

Four Elements, 36" x 36", by Susan Cornelis and Suzanne Edminster

Susan Cornelis and I have been passing paintings back and forth in our collaboration, getting our mirror neurons working. “Mirror neurons” are really highly speculative, as far as hard science goes, but are a seductive concept. We are made to imitate and to share knowledge, to mimic. Our brains recreate what we see as our own experience. When we see someone pick up a lemon, our taste buds start. In our case, we have at times in the collaboration consciously tried to mimic the other: to use a Suzanne color or make a Susan shape. Some of these paintings are turning out to be the “best” ones.

It makes me wonder if paintings– and all art– actually encode the experience of the painter, or, in our case, painters plural, into the paint itself. When we look at the Mona Lisa, do we start to resonate with da Vinci’s beautiful brain? He wrote all his notes in mirror writing, so maybe he cracked the code centuries ago, as he did with flying machines and submarines. Why are some of the collaborative paintings powerful? Here’s a question for the ego to gnaw on, and one we’ve discussed. Are the collaborative paintings “better” than our individual ones?

You can come to our show and find out. The painting shown here, “Four Elements”, is a good mirror painting example: Suzanne paints with Susan’s cool palette, Susan tries Suzanne’s odd forms.  Let us know what  you see in this work.

4 thoughts on “Mirror Neurons and Painting Neurons: Reflections on Four Hands Painting

  1. Natalie says when we read we are studying the mind of the writer, getting the patterns of his or her breath in the lengths of the sentences. Surely when we look at paintings we are taking in the action that has made the stroke, the mind that has decreed the choices of color and form.


  2. At museums and exhibits, sometimes I like to follow the pathway of the brush with the gesture-dance of hand and arm. I like to stand arm’s-length plus brush-reach in front of the painting, placing myself where the artist has stood. I like to connect with the artist, traversing time and space in connecting with the work.

    Art aligns the tangible, the visual and the unforeseen, pigment and soul. The unknown manifest and vibrant and yet unknowable.


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