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Starting on Saturday, April 24th, 2021, The Convergence Initiative and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts invite you to enjoy five Science-Art Colloquiums over Zoom.

A scientist and a volunteer art guide from the museum will have a conversation on visual perception and fine arts inspired by a special pigment representing a colour and a subject. The discussions will explore things like why we imagine shapes in the clouds or what is the first thing that our brain processes on images, or how colour can be a socio-psychological construction? We will discuss how some pigments in paintings can be dangerous while others allow us to reveal invisible things in the brain. We will talk about abstraction and gestalt, neurons and imagination.

Each expert will speak for approximately 20 minutes, followed by a moderated conversation with the public for about 40 minutes. This is a conversation where anyone can participate, and we are looking for your questions.

Vanta Black

A World Without Color

Disorders in the Perception of Color

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Patrick Cavanagh


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& Marie-José Daoust

(Montreal Museum of Fine Arts volunteer guide)

April 24th, 2021


5:30 PM EST

Duration: 1 hr 30m


Artists create impressions of depth and light from pigments on a flat surface. In this colloquium, Doctor Patrick Cavanagh will describe how they capture scenes with almost no light – nighttime scenes – and how line drawings can depict volumes and space without any sense of light. Then we will look at shadows where the absence of light helps convey the depth in a scene. Dr. Cavanagh will also train you in the forensics of art – how to detect the short cuts that artists take, like impossible shadows, that break the rules of physics in order to achieve a more effective painting. This work because our brains take shortcuts too and artists have discovered what they are, so the infractions go unnoticed. We will discuss how to use art to do “science by looking”, unlocking the basic rules of the visual brain that were discovered by artists. 

About the Speakers

Patrick Cavanagh is a Senior Research Fellow at Glendon College and a research professor at Dartmouth College. He received an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering from McGill University and a PhD in Cognitive Psychology from Carnegie-Mellon University. He has been a professor at the Université de Montréal, Harvard University, and the Université de Paris. He currently studies visual attention, shadows, and how we know where things are. He has also explored the contribution of various features such as shadow, color, and texture to representations in art and how the artists’ use of the features offers insights into how the brain works. He has published over 290 articles and book chapters and one book on shadows. He holds an honorary doctorate from the Université de Montréal and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.


Marie-José Daoust born in Montreal, Quebec, she trained in philosophy at Université de Montréal, at McGill and the University of California at Berkeley, with special interests in logic, the philosophy of science and the role of philosophy in society at large.  She started teaching philosophy in Montreal, at Collège Ahuntsic in 1967, the year the cégeps came into existence in Quebec:  this meant initiating a modernized approach to philosophy for everyone, and not only for those who would make a career out of it. A team worker, she experimented with varied pedagogical approaches. She twice sat as Department head over the years and on many committees. Under the leadership of Laurent-Michel Vacher, she collaborated along with Jean-Claude Martin in the publication of Débats philosophiques.  Une initiation (Liber, Montreal, 2002). After 36 years of teaching, she retired in 2003 … soon to recycle herself as a volunteer guide:  she was trained as such at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, where she has been a guide since 2007 in all of the museum’s collections and for diversified audiences, individuals and groups, among which some visually impaired persons.  She finds art’s way of challenging cultural presuppositions most nourishing. 

Featured artworks

Charlie Alakkariallak Inukpuk – Untitled (Head of an Inuit Woman with Two Braids) (1941)

Parr – Les Miens (1961)

Helen Galloway McNicoll – Under the Shadow of the Tent (1914)

Henri Le Sidaner – White Houses (1923)


The Color of Passion 

Color as a Social Construct

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Dwaynica Greaves


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& Louise Gauvreau

(Montreal Museum of Fine Arts volunteer guide)

May 15th, 2021


1:00 PM EST

Duration: 1 hr 30m


The importance of colour is prevalent in society, from the colours meticulously chosen for countries flags to the clothes that we wear in our day to day lives. Colour is embedded with many connotations that we utilise to understand our world. Colour preferences can be seen individually and collectively and differ across cultures. The question aesthetic scientists ask is, why? In this talk, Neuroaesthetician Dwaynica Greaves discusses colour theories within Aesthetic Science to understand the approaches taken to find out why we have colour preferences and how they shape our social world.

About the Speakers

Dwaynica Greaves is a Neuroaesthetician investigating the socio-cognitive effects of performing arts on audiences and performers. She has achieved a BSc Psychology degree at City, University of London - research project entitled ‘The Effects of Mood Induction on Emotional Perception of Movement Stimuli’ and was a graduate in the first cohort of students on the MSc Psychology of the Arts, Neuroaesthetics and Creativity programme at Goldsmiths, University of London – research project entitled ‘Deconstructing the Dream: The Effects of Audience Participation on Audience Engagement in Theatrical Performances.’ She currently holds a place at University College London, to study MPhil/PhD Cognitive Neuroscience, with her research project entitled, ‘Investigating the Impact of Theatre on Social Cognition and Engagement’ Not only is Dwaynica’s interdisciplinary nature evident in academia it is also reflected in her artistic endeavours and professional occupations.


Louise Gauvreau. I am thrilled to be part of this ‘Parallel Worlds’ virtual experience of the Convergence Initiative as it reflects the huge impact that color and art have on our brain. In these uncertain times we are discovering how important and soothing art and culture can be. And I feel privileged to be part of this enlightening endeavour.   


My formal background is a McGill B.Ed with a Major in Physical Education. I also studied radio and television which gave me an opportunity to work as a Talk Show Host. This field of communication unleashed a host of possibilities. As I became a Communications Strategist, I honed my skills abroad in France and in Tanzania, including creating an African humanitarian foundation, My recent capacity as Guide at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts combines my training in Education with my desire to communicate and to transmit my passion for art.  


I always loved color, especially ‘red’. As a Radio/TV Talk Show Host and Communications Strategist, I associated red with determination and action. Although I haven’t inherited the drawing genes of my siblings, I enjoy the feeling of looking at art. How does this color speak to you? 

Featured artworks

Maurice Cullen – Quebec City from Lévis (1904)

Fritz Bradtner – La Tempête (1896)

Helen Galloway McNicoll – Under the Shadow of the Tent (1914)

Uranium Yellow

Poisoned by Color

Neurotoxicity and Dyes

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Oskar Gonzalez Mendia


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& Christiane Hudon

(Montreal Museum of Fine Arts volunteer guide)

June 19th, 2021


1:00 PM EST

Duration: 1 hr 30m


Probably you would not include being an artist among high-risk jobs. But it used to be. At least if we take a close look at painters’ palette: lead white, vermilion, Scheele’s green, chrome yellow, Naples yellow and many others. These pigments include toxic elements such as lead, chromium, arsenic, mercury or antimony that can cause severe diseases.

In this talk, we will explore the palette of old masters such as Titian, Greco or Vermeer. We will also learn the chemical composition of the poisonous pigments used to create some of the most famous paintings in the world: Sunflowers, Girl with a pearl earring, The Scream. Masterpieces of art history that are also interesting from a toxicological point of view. In this aspect, we will see some of the most relevant poisoning cases that might be attributed to artistic materials, including those of Van Gogh and Goya.

There is no doubt that pigments are beautiful, but they can be dangerous too.

About the Speakers

Oskar González Mendia obtained a PhD in Analytical Chemistry from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) in 2011. After a postdoc in the University of Leiden, he come back to the UPV/EHU where he teaches in the Science & Technology and the Fine Arts faculties since 2015.


His research is focused on drug analysis and metabolomics and his areas of expertise include Liquid Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry. He has published 20 JCR articles, taken part in 13 R&D projects, and supervised three doctoral theses.


Besides his research projects, he also is involved in science outreach activities where he connects Chemistry and Arts. He believes that we should seek bonds between these two areas of knowledge. With this aim, Oskar regularly write popular science articles, collaborate with several radio stations and has published a book entitled “Por qué los girasoles se marchitan”.


Personal website / ResearcherID: G-7649-2015

Christiane Hudon earned a PhD in Biological Oceanography (Université Laval, Québec City) in 1983, at the onset of a 35-year-long career in scientific research for the Canadian government. With the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, she localized nursery grounds for juvenile lobsters in the Atlantic Region, investigated fish and shrimp distribution in Hudson Strait and documented seasonal migrations of cod and Arctic char along the coasts of Hudson and James Bay.

In 1993, she moved from Halifax to Montreal to join Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), where she carried out research on the cumulative impacts of human activities (pollution, dredging, regulation, climate change) on aquatic ecosystems. She used algae, cyanobacteria and wetlands to document changes in environmental health of the St. Lawrence River, the Laurentian Great Lakes and Lake Winnipeg.


Although Christiane officially retired in 2018, she remains a senior advisor with ECCC as Scientific Emerita and still supervises PhD students (Université de Montréal). As a volunteer guide at the MMFA, Christiane now discovers new ideas from the fascinating world of visual arts. At the end of the pandemic, she hopes to resume happy gatherings with family and friends and to return to live theater, concerts and world travel.

Featured artworks

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot - Ville d'Avray - The Fisherman by the Lock (1852)

Ferdinand Hodler - Haberdier (1895)

Francesco Guardi - Storm at Sea (1765)

YlnMn Blue
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Images in the Clouds


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Karim Jerbi

(Cognitive Neuroscientist)

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& Sylvie Douyon

(Montreal Museum of Fine Arts volunteer guide)

July 16th, 2021


5:30 PM EST

Duration: 1hr 30m


In YInMn Blue, we will address pareidolia. Pareidolia is the integration of ambiguous stimuli into meaningful representations, like when you look at a cloud with no particular shape and your brain extract forms from it. Pareidolia has been linked to creativity, we will examine visual and superstitious/divergent perception, abstraction and Gestalt, and the links of those phenomena to creativity and colour in the brain.

About the Speakers

Karim Jerbi is a professor at the Psychology department of the University of Montreal. He is Canada Research Chair in Computational Neuroscience and Cognitive Neuroimaging and heads UNIQUE, a Neuro-AI research center (Unifying Neuroscience and AI in Quebec). He obtained a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience and Brain Imaging from the Pierre & Marie Curie University in Paris and a biomedical engineering degree from the University of Karlsruhe (Germany). His research lies at the crossroads between cognitive, computational and clinical neuroscience. The goal of his research is (1) to elucidate the role of neural oscillations and large-scale neural communication in cognition, and (2) to investigate brain network alterations in the case of psychiatric and neurological disorders. The multidisciplinary research conducted in his laboratory combines magnetoencephalography (MEG), scalp- and intracranial electroencephalography (EEG) with advanced signal processing and data analytics including machine learning. Several ongoing projects in his lab use electrophysiological brain recordings to examine changes in the dynamic properties of large-scale brain networks across different states of consciousness (e.g., wakefulness, sleep, dreaming, anesthetic-induced unconsciousness, meditation and psychedelic states). Dr Jerbi also has a keen interest in the convergence between brain science, creativity and art. He is also involved in several projects that employ sonification techniques to convert neural signals into audiovisual experiences (e,g, Casino Neuronale / The CoCo Brain Channel, etc.).

Twitter: @karimjerbineuro 


Centre UNIQUE: 

Casino Neuronale:


Sylvie Douyon did her medical studies at Université de Montréal, her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Université de Montréal and a one- year fellowship in high-risk obstetrics at University of Southern California in Los Angeles. She then practiced for over fourteen years at Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal. In 2003, she did a MBA at HEC Montréal and started working at different hospitals as an health administrator. She retired during the summer of 2019 and in September of the same year, started a training with the Museum of Fine Arts of Montreal and Concordia University to become a volunteer guide. She enjoys visual arts and is herself an amateur artist working with acrylics, watercolors and silk paper. She loves to travel and makes sure she visits the museums everywhere she goes. She particularly enjoyed the Mori museum in Tokyo, the Shanghai museum and of course the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre. She believes that art has an important calming role to play in these tumultuous times.

Featured artworks

Fritz Bradtner - La Tempête (1896) 

Fritz Brandtner – Sans titre (Abstraction) (1968)

Juaran (Rodolphe de Repentigny) – Équilibre (1953)

George Arluk – Untlited (Chaman) (1990)

Alexa 488

A Fluorescent Ghost

(The Use of Fluorescent Molecules in Neuroscience)

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Melina Jaramillo Garcia

(Molecular and Cellular Microscopy Douglas Research Centre Platform Coordinator)

Madeline Colaco

& Madeleine Colaco

(Montreal Museum of Fine Arts volunteer guide)

August 13th, 2021


5:30 PM EST

Duration: 1hr 30m


In Alexa488, we will discuss how fluorescence microscopy has been used to find markers for neurodegenerative diseases. For art experts, we will focus here on techniques, and the exploration of new ideas of painting that have pushed the perception and field.

About the Speakers

Melina Jaramillo Garcia is an imaging scientist at the Douglas Hospital Research Center (DHRC) where she manages the Molecular and Cellular Microscopy Platform (MCMP). Melina completed her graduate studies at Concordia University where she used advanced microscopy techniques to study cell division. Prior to obtaining her position at the DHRC, she managed the microscopy core facility in Concordia's Department of Biology. Under her supervision, neuroscientists learn to use advance microscopy techniques such as epifluorescence, laser scanning confocal and multiphoton imaging, to capture stunning images that support their research. She has a special interest in scientific communication and the use of microscopy images to promote dialogue between researchers and the public. In the past, Melina has organized image competitions and exhibitions for her users to promote their work. Future projects include a collaboration between the MCMP and the Convergence Initiative in which artist and neuroscientist will be paired to create sci-art pieces using microscopy techniques. These pieces aim to highlight the groundbreaking and vital mental health research being conducted at the DHRC. 


Madeleine Colaco is a Volunteer Guide at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts since 2018. For her, one of the most enjoyable things about guiding is the variety of conversations that art prompts and the bridge it provides for bringing together different points of view. As a professional marketer and fundraiser, she had benefitted from the enrichment that arises when seemingly unrelated paths converge.  After graduating from McGill University with an MBA, Madeleine worked in marketing for major consumer packaged goods companies in Montreal and London England.  A job managing sponsorships for the Heineken beer brand became an unlikely bridge into evaluating sponsorships at the Canadian Space Agency. This in turn led to a role in fundraising & sponsorship at the CHU Sainte Justine university hospital centre. She is delighted to be part of the “Parallel World’s” initiative where current knowledge about colour and visual perception is explored through discussion between the scientific and art communities as well as the broader public.

Featured artworks

Prudence Heward – Rosaire (1935)

Claude Tousignant – 5-78-102 (1978)

Parr – Les Miens (1961)

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