"My child could have done that!" Wrong – neuroaesthetics is starting to show us why abstract art can be so beguiling
STANDING in front of Jackson Pollock's Summertime: Number 9A one day, I was struck by an unfamiliar feeling. What I once considered an ugly collection of random paint splatters now spoke to me as a joyous celebration of movement and energy, the bright yellow and blue bringing to mind a carefree laugh.
It was my road-to-Damascus moment - the first time a piece of abstract art had stirred my emotions. Like many people, I used to dismiss these works as a waste of time and energy. How could anyone find meaning in what looked like a collection of colourful splodges thrown haphazardly on a 5.5-metre-wide canvas? Yet here I was, in London's Tate Modern gallery, moved by a Pollock.
Since then, I have come to appreciate the work of many more modern artists, who express varying levels of abstraction in their work, in particular the great Piet Mondrian, Paul Klee, and contemporary artist Hiroshi Sugimoto. Even so, when I tried to explain my taste, I found myself lost for words. Why are we attracted to paintings and sculptures that seem to bear no relation to the physical world?