Stella Turi, Thursday 06 September 2012
‘Beauty is the first test: There is no permanent place in this world for ugly mathematics’.
This quote by the 1940s mathematician G. H. Hardy provides the name for this innovative exhibition, which strives to re-unite art and maths, so often polarised in words and minds.
The exhibition, 'Beauty is the First Test', which will open its doors in mid September at Pump House Gallery in Battersea, consists of the work of nine artists, who use a variety of media to show how integral mathematics is to crafts and in turn art.
The exhibition is the brainchild of curator Liz Cooper, a craft curator, whose background is in contemporary art textiles. Cooper says that the mathematical aspects of these crafts were something she had always been aware of due to her background. As her career and interest developed across all craft forms, she realised that maths featured all over the place.
‘With the exhibition I was hoping to make maths less scary for people by showing them some really interesting crafts, some really nice works of art that happened to have maths theories behind them, without looking like really scary scientific things.’
This exhibition tries to demystify maths, but also shows the technical side of craft. Cooper says ‘[art] is not just about being inspired by nature and beauty – in order to perfect their craft many artists have to be real technicians and master all kinds of theories and techniques, so it’s really a meeting of these things.’
Amongst the artists is Janice Gunner, a quilter, who has work in the V&A and private collections, and was inspired by mathematical theories and the way that many mathematicians these days use computers to draw images of mathematical models. In her quilts she incorporates illustrations developed by a French mathematician and computer scientist.
Gunner also looks at the Fibonacci sequence, which occurs in nature and can be represented effectively as a series of circles that get bigger and smaller. She has re-imagined the circles as Indra’s pearls, relating the mathematical theory to the Buddhist theory that the sky and heaven is made up of a network of pearls, each of which is a world that reflects all the other worlds around it.
Other artists include Janette Matthews, a former maths teacher, who became interested in textiles, and now creates beautiful, delicate work using laser cut silk to build up a pattern, and Lesley Halliwell, who makes large scale drawings using Spirographs (the geometric toy) to create huge luminous pieces.
Also featuring at the exhibition is a maquette of ‘Seed’, an egg like sculpture with a pattern based on the geometric and mathematical principles which underlie plant growth. The original granite carving by artist Peter Randall Page can be seen at the Eden project in Cornwall.
Development of this exhibition for Pump House Gallery has taken just over a year, but it has been an ambition of Cooper’s for over three years, so it really is a plan finally coming together. It is supported by both Wandsworth Children’s Services who created an interactive pack for children, and The Crafts Council who have developed some beautifully illustrated worksheets for adults.
The passion behind this exhibition is clear and even just hearing about it got me excited to see it, so if it’s something that intrigues you I urge you to take a friend, partner or the family and go check it out.
'Beauty is the Fist Test' will run from 12th September- 25th November, Pump House Gallery, Battersea Park, London, SW11 4NJ