Week 2/ Mathematics in Art / Andrew Curnow

Through out the seemingly separate realms of ‘Art’ and ‘Mathematics’, major differences are easily apparent. Even a first grader can distinguish a mathematical problem from a mundane finger painting. In essence, to the naked or untrained eye, Art and Math are undeniably different topics. However, even in my own inexperienced mind, mathematics can form an art of its own. Granted a sketch or a doodle may be completely derived from the simple mind of a toddler, if applied correctly, mathematical principles such as the Golden Ratio, fractals, and even exponential growth in nature can give ‘art’ a new name. In fact, in the minds of many mathematicians, the numbers and problems form an art form of their own. As G.H. Hardy once said, “There is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics”.

            Of course, imposing mathematics efficiently into art is a skill of its own. Creating a masterpiece work of art or solving a math problem that takes 4 pages of calculations are each feats on their own, but to demonstrate a mathematical rule in a physical form other than numbers involves not only a proficient mind, but an understanding of the piece as well. For instance, if I glanced upon a work of art that was derived from the Golden Ratio as we observed in class, I would have no idea of the mathematical skeleton comprising the piece. When I realized the principles behind the various works of art we observed, the work itself changed in my mind, everything seemed to have a reason to have been designed the way it was. Another art project I researched and was very intrigued with was the project involving hypercones. At Basic Research Institute in the Mathematical Sciences at the HP Bristol campus, artist Simon Thomas has been researching and working with the idea of the Hypercone, in which a circle with an exponentially decreasing radius is modeled rotating through space.

The hypercone demonstrates the growth and decay that has always been present in nature. Furthermore at BRIMS (Basic Research Institute in the Mathematical Sciences) Simon Thomas works on pieces modeled from R. Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes. His variations follow the principles of Fullers domes in following the ruling that the needed strength of the building pieces must only increase in par to the logarithm of the size of the building. These both represent highpoints in the possibilities of modern day and futuristic architecture, found in the simple idea of mixing aesthetically pleasing artwork, which math.


            These works demonstrate the innate properties that mathematics can take in art. Throughout history mathematics can be found fundamentally in works of art, whether in Escher’s or Buckminster Fuller’s work, or in works in which the pieces had extraordinaire mathematical support in order to exist such as ancient statues in which the hanging marble could not outweigh the suspension power of the marble or material. In essence, both art and mathematics can coexist easily, however it takes a correct mindset to truly grasp what is being introduced visually. Though I cannot say I am an artistic individual I can undeniably agree that the use of math in artistic forms is extremely intriguing. It demonstrates that such principles that most people claim “you’ll never see this in real life” can easily be visualized and demonstrated.

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