We have been focusing on science-based art, but it might be interesting to consider the implications of the converse — art-based science — by which I mean the study of art objects using scientific techniques. There are many examples: violin makers systematically quantify how violins produce their distinctive sound (also this), physicists have deduced what Jackson Pollock knew about paint, and at the lab where I work, x-rays have revealed hidden layers in a Picasso painting. Some artists are uncomfortable with such work because they feel this reductionist approach diminishes the human element and dispels the mystery in art. I wonder why it has to be either-or. Why can’t have it both ways?
In physics, we often study phenomena that admit multiple (sometimes mutually exclusive) descriptions — light is both wave and particle. Or, a volume of fluid can be viewed both from afar in terms of macroscopic quantities (like density or viscosity) or up close as microscopic particles. We might be moved by the how the fluid dances and flows, and this beauty is not negated by having a low-level picture of how things work.
Maybe it can be the same for science and art. Maybe the physics of paint can coexist with the painting. Maybe it is possible to both know and not-know at the same time.