the abstract concept of
a line
merged with
its most
tangible reality

Simple cells respond selectively to lines of specific orientations.


Even the earliest cave artists intuited that lines are elaborated upon by the brain to give the impression of edges and shapes. Yet, the line only exists as an abstract concept in our brain. The fact that line drawings are so convincing gives us a fascinating insight into the way our brains work.

With ‘A simple line’, Essaïdi attempts to merge the abstract idea of a line with its most tangible reality by having a zebra finch look at its own brain cells in the form of a line. Specific cells (simple cells) which give rise to the abstract concept of lines and our perception of them.

A Simple Line
Line drawings are ubiquitous in all types of art from all cultures. They appear to make intuitive sense. The reason why line drawings succeed so brilliantly has to do with how our visual processing system works.

Each neuron in the primary visual cortex is highly specialized. Among these neurons are simple cells. These cells respond selectively to (implied) lines of specific orientations. These orientation selective cells are considered the physiological building blocks of the neural elaboration of forms and of our representative model of reality.

This most probably confirms what artists already long before knew, -that the universal form, the constituent of all other more complex forms, is the straight line and -that the capacity for abstraction is an inherent part of life itself.

‘A Simple Line’ not only brings us face to face with our neurological functioning, it also evokes the history of art and in particular the work of artists such as Piet Mondrian.

In De Stijl, Mondrian was exploring a reduction of figures that decomposed nature and reduced it to its primal forms and colours. ‘A Simple Line’ pushes the perceptual purity even further by (…) merging the abstract idea of a line with the most tangible reality.“

adjusting the contours of nature – Régine Debatty


Debbaty, R. (Dec. 2014). Adjusting the contours of nature [Weblog].
Debbaty, R. (Jan. 2015). A Simple Line. A zebra finch ponders upon abstraction [Weblog].