Seeing the Bigger Picture

This body of works resulted from the artistic research that was part of Janneke van Leeuwen’s interdisciplinary PhD research, which combined visual art and social neuroscience to investigate relationships between visual imagination and the social brain in healthy ageing and dementia.


These glasses with changeable coloured glass insets invite audiences to experiment with how different colours and line patterns might interact with their visual experiences.

Colour Spaces

An installation of six large plywood panels (2240 x 1220 mm), suspended in increasing angles from the wall, against which the Fragmented Forms works were displayed.

The three dark panels, painted in Black, Pantone 448C ‘the ugliest colour in the world‘, and Dark Yellow, were the most negatively rated colours in a lab experiment on colour experiences in different spatial and material contexts, which included neurologically healthy young and senior adults, as well people living with various forms of dementia.

The three bright panels were painted in the 3 primary colours red, yellow and blue. Saturated Yellow was the most positively rated colour by young adults in the lab experiment on colour experiences in different spatial and material contexts (for older adults it was Saturated Orange). In the Colour Spaces installation, the Saturated Yellow panel faced the Dark Yellow panel, one of the most negatively rated colours by all ages.

The blue panel was painted in a vibrant ultramarine called International Klein Blue (IKB), which was made famous by the French artist Yves Klein (1928-1962), building on a historic reverence for ultramarine blue in Western art.

The hue of the red panel was colour-matched with the notorious large-scale colour field painting series ‘Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue?’, by the American painter Barnett Newman (1905-1970), created during the final years of his life. Two different paintings from the series were subjected to vandalism in the 80’s, both by angry young men, in art museums in Amsterdam and Berlin.

Fractured Forms

This series of constructed photographic works explores how different forms of dementia can alter people’s sensory perceptions and internal models of the world.

The geometric patterns reflect on Posterior Cortical Atrophy, a form of dementia which affects initially primarily the visual cortex, changing the way the brain constructs meaningful shapes from lines and colours. The hidden number shapes are a reference to variants of Primary Progressive Aphasia, which are forms of dementia that affect people’s ability to understand and express verbal language, while often sparing numerical abilities. Typical Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as variants of Frontotemporal Dementia, often bring out child-like perceptions and expressions in people, which is explored in the brightly coloured works. The contrasting dark compositions reflect on the disruption in people’s sense of self and belonging, as their internal world gradually falls apart in disjointed fragments as the dementia progresses.