Sarah Stengle – Inspirational Conics

I look at a lot of art and I find quite a bit of work with Mathematical elements, but when I find new art inspired by a book of Mathematical proofs and figures I get really excited. Stengle’s new and ongoing series of drawings is based on Apollonius of Perga’s book “Conic Books I-IV”.  Apolonius of Perga (262BC-109BC) was an ancient Greek geometrist who is famous for his innovated work in the mathematical field of conics. He explored the properties of conic sections and furthered our understanding of ellipses, parabolas, and hyperbolas.

Stengle has been collecting vintage postcards for a year. These postcards serve as the background image for her drawings. The choice of postcards is very important, as the artist looks for older non-glossy cards that can be drawn on. The subject matter on the card must also be fairly uninteresting visually so they can support but not over power Stengle’s mathematical imagery.

Each drawing is based on a proposition from “Conics Books I-IV”. There are three types of cards in this series. Some of the cards feature an accurate figure from a proposition in the book. In this case the book and proposition are written on the back of the card. Some of the other drawings have deviations from the figures in the book, but the aesthetics are interesting. Here the artist uses the work, and states the proposition and the fact there is a error on the back of the card. Finally, there are drawings that are imaginary propositions inspired by a particular figure.

Stengle_Postcard from Perga_Moraine Lake72_imaginary Prop 6Med Low Res

“Perga Moraine Lake 72”

The card “Perga Moraine Lake 72” is the third type of card: it features an imaginary proposition. The artist had started to draw an Apolonius of Perga proof, but stopped at a point when the drawing reached a point of aesthetic completion. From the tip of the cone to its elliptical base, the mathematical figure leads the viewer’s eye from the mountain peaks in the landscape behind the lake to the shoreline.

Stengle_Postcard from _Perga_Book1_Prop2_third_image_2015

“Post Card from Perga, Book 1, Proposition 2 Third Image”

This second Post card from Perga, “Book 1, Proposition 2 Third Image” shows the third of the four figures in the proposition. The background card is an overexposed photo card of a horse . The uneven quality of the card could be due to the fact it was probably made to promote the sale of the horse. This card features a figure drawn directly from the text with no changes. The axis of symmetry of the mathematical figure goes through the center of the animal.

Stengle_Postcard_from Perga_Book1Prop4_Med Low Res

“Lilac Conics Book 1 Proposition 4”

“Lilac Conics, Book 1 proposition 4” is also an accurate representation of the proposition in  Apollonius of Perga’s book. The four conics are lined up along a beach mimicking the points of the masts of the fishermen’s boats.

Using carefully selected appropriated images as the backdrop for her geometric figures, Stengle has created a link between her mathematical subject matter and the world around us. The basis of the Perga post cards is an ancient text and the actual cards are vintage. When combined these elements lead to a sort of suspension of time. This series of work is a wonderful expression of the timeless aesthetics of Apollonius of Perga’s conic geometry.

Susan Happersett

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