Last week the Bridges organization held their annual conference in Jyväskylä, Finland. This international conference features lectures and workshops that highlight the connections between mathematics, music, art, architecture, education and culture. My favorite part of the five day event is the art exhibition. This year there was a wide range of styles, techniques and mediums on display. it is difficult to select only a few for this blog but I will try.
Sharol Nau repurposes unwanted hard cover books to create sculptures that contain parabolas. A parabola is a curve with reflective symmetry, in which each point on the curve is the same distance from a fixed focus point and a fixed line. The artist carefully measures and folds each page to the common focus point. The resulting portable sculpture preserves the exterior shape of the book but creates a new visual story for the interior.
Nithikul Nimkulrat hand-knots sculptures using paper string. Inspired by mathematical knot diagrams, the artist employs two colors of string to better indicate the positions of each stand within the knot structures.”Black & White Striped Knots”examines properties of knotted textiles.
Looking closely at the work, the circular patterns emerge. Overlapping circles cross to form four equal arcs. This creates a series of monotone circles with the arcs of adjacent circles forming a pattern with order-4 rotational symmetry. Nimkulrat’s intricate structure is a wonderful exploration of the mathematical possibilities in textile and fiber art.
The use of computer generated drawing processes and inkjet printers is a popular means of expression at the Bridges conference. Some of the more interesting examples on display were created by David Chappell. The artist builds a system of rules to generate graceful line drawings that are mathematically to related plant growth through space and time. The lines begin from a rooted position at the horizontal bottom of the picture plane and playful grow up into reaching tendrils. In order to achieve this lyrical organic quality (not an easy feat using mathematical algorithm computer generation) Chappell modifies the rules throughout the process. This extra attention allows the drawings to change and develop in a more free-form manner.
Another means of creating computer assisted art is the use of laser cutting. In his work “Islamic Fractal Starflower”, Pill Webster has cut a lace-like pattern into a clear light blue acrylic sheet. The mathematics behind this pattern is a combination of two geometric themes: the symmetry in Islamic patterns and the recursive properties of fractals. This combination requires some heavy weight mathematics, but Webster’s choice of materials transforms the complex theories into an ethereal presence. It has the appearance of being built from delicate and complex ice crystal. The juxtaposition between the serious mathematical generation and delicate physicality of the work create an interesting tension.
Nathaniel Friedman is one of my favorite artists for two reasons. First, he creates wonderful sculptures and prints and second because he is a very supportive of other artists. As the founder of the organization ISAMA – The International Society of Art, Mathematics and Architecture, he contacted me years ago to speak at one of the first Math Art conferences. This was my introduction into a whole community of other artists and mathematicians devoted to the aesthetics of Mathematics. I will be eternally grateful to Nat.
But back to the sculpture…. “Triple Twist Mobius” consists of three equal-sized aluminum bars each with a single twist. They are joined to form a triangle shape. The clean lines and the simplicity of the form are deceiving, this is a powerful shape. The 2-D photo does not do it justice. In the gallery each vantage point offers a different geometry, it seems to change depending on where your stand. This act of looking at something from different perspectives is referred to as hyperseeing (a concept Friedman taught me, Thank You!)
Every Summer the Bridges organization holds a conference devoted to Mathematics and the Arts. Bridges is an international organization whose sole mission is to foster and explore these interdisciplinary connections. This year the meeting was held in Baltimore Maryland in the beautiful University of Baltimore Law building. Each year the Art exhibition is one of the highlights of the gathering. This year was a particularly impressive display of work in a light and open space over three floors. Here are two photos of the gallery.
It has been very difficult for me to just single out a few art works to write about, for a complete overview I suggest checking out the Bridges website. Today I will focus on two works by two different artists that struck me particularly.
I will start with a pencil drawings by Taneli Luotoniemi. I have a real affinity for hand drawing and I feel Luotoniemi is able to achieve a remarkable subtly of line form and grey scale using only a pencil. “The Hypercube” Is a 2-D representation of a 3-D depiction of a 4-D cube. There have been many example of two dimensional art referencing hyper cubes but this is definitely a a more organic representation then most. This is achieved by the use of thick curved lines that meet at crossings of more solid shapes, instead of small points. By adjusting the grey scale of the pencil mark Luotoniemi gives the lines the appearance of weaving over and under each other. This is one of the most graceful visual interpretations I have seen.
David H. Press builds elegant hanging sculptures that are a type of 3-D line drawings. The support structures are curved shapes but the wires within these frameworks are straight lines that form what appear to be curved surfaces. Symmetry plays a major role in Press’ work. In “Three Great ¾ Circles in Orange” the use of three circles would have created a sphere, but the ¾ circles create an asymmetrical frame work. Within the wire line work, however, there are some smaller areas with symmetrical properties. We are used to seeing complicated symmetries in Mathematical sculpture, but the use of the ¾ circles rips open the sphere, granting the viewer a fresh look.
There were so much interesting work on display this year it is hard to discuss it all in one blog post, I will write more next week.