Holger Hadrich – by Sarah Stengle

Holger Hadrich makes complex, collapsible geometric structures out of steel wire, and then photographs them in a way that dissolves the pure determination of the geometry into a feeling of a fleeting memory. The context chosen is often an ordinary place that implies motion, or transition. Sidewalks, asphalt and rivers recur with the superimposition of a delicate geometric structure.

17-08-01These objects rarely obscure their backdrop but rather hover like an apparition. One can see right through them, as one could see through a ghost. In his hands, the timeless geometry of the Archimedean solids are presented as movable objects that we pass by in a fleeting world. The context for his creations underscore the idea of passage and form a sequence of ordinary by-ways transformed by an ongoing internal conversation with mathematical form.

17-08-02The objects themselves are based on polyhedra, which are usually conceived of as solid. In his hands, however, they are rendered flexible and collapsible. Their web-like delicacy show precision and immense patience. One can almost imagine the object being turned in hand as careful attention is paid to the vertices. In many cases they are punctuated by small brass washers or carefully formed loops, which form a secured but collapsible hub. A different aspect of the work is made apparent when the objects are held in the hands. They are designed to be collapsible. Many are collapsible along more than one axis. To understand the collapsibility of his constructs it is best to handle them or see them in motion. His video Medusa Tower below shows one of his structures expanding from a depth of about three inches to nearly five meters.

Art historians from Vasari to Wöfflin have debated the supremacy of linear versus painter pictorial devices in art.  These works are both simultaneously linear and painterly (malerisch). The absolute clarity of the mathematic constructs is intentionally obscured to become integral to the partially dissolved, or transient clarity of the object as photographed.  These linear forms become painterly through Hadrich’s lens. The geometric forms are pulled out of the originating mathematical abstractions and into our ordinary life, where they seem to hover on the brink of collapsing and disappearing.

17-08-03To quote Wölfflin: “Composition, light and color no longer merely serve to define the form, but have their own life absolute clarity has been partly abandoned to enhance the effect.” The resolutely normal sidewalks and fragments of asphalt are also transformed when viewed through the orderly but complex web of geometric construction of wire. One immediately intuits a precise order that stands against our own transience and feels patient, quiet and timeless.
You can find more about Hadrich’s work on his Facebook page.

This is Sarah Stengle’s first contribution to this blog. Sarah is an artist and writer based in St Paul, Minnesota.

Exhibition of Mathematical Art at JMM

This year the huge Joint Mathematics Meeting was held in Atlanta Georgia with over 6,000 attendees. A section of the exhibition hall was turned into a gallery space to present art work with mathematical connections. There were also dozens of talks presented by both mathematicians and artists on the topic of Mathematical Art.

During one of these talks, Sarah Stengle presented work from her collaboration with Genevieve Gaiser Tremblay. The large series of works on paper, titled “Criterion of Yielding”, uses stereoscopic images from the 1850’s as the background for drawings of diagrams from the book “Mathematics of Plasticity” written by Rodney Hill in 1950.

The work “Criterion of Yielding, Winter Scene” features a mathematical schematic based on the deformation of metals that creates a visual bridge between the solitary figure on each side of the stereoscopic card. To enhance the feeling of antiquity, the artist uses ground peridot gemstone to make the pigment. This process gives the color a sense of stains instead of paint alluding to the paper as artifact.


The topic of plasticity revolves around the measurement of stress, strain, bending, and yielding. All these ideas are poetically associated to the human condition, both as individuals and with regards to our interactions. The layering of mathematical material over existing images presents an unexpected dichotomy. The additional process of pigmented staining and mark making instills each work with a sense of time.

Andrew James Smith developed a unique process of drawing regular polygons to create a spiral called a Protogon. The process to form a Protogon begins with a triangle and progresses with each new polygon sharing a side with the previous polygon and having one more side.


“Proto Pinwheel” is a digital study for a large acrylic painting and is a pigment transfer on wood. For this work Smith has started with a yellow opaque Protogon shape and then rotated 120 degrees and layered subsequent Protogon shapes in varying transparent colors. The result is a spiral pulsing with energy.

More from JMM in a few days.

Susan Happersett

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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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