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Maths-Art seminars at London Knowledge Lab

While looking around for more arty maths, I came across the Maths-Art Seminars at London Knowledge Lab. Running more-or-less monthly since 2007, the seminar has invited architects, poets, musicians, painters and of course mathematicians to explore the connections between “mathematics” and “art”.

Previous talks include such intriguing titles as “Parametric Design and Construction in the sculpture “Tall Tree and the Eye” by Chiara Tuffaneli“; “To Live: Building Geodesic Shelters from Estate Agent Boards“; “Some mathematics within? What actually goes on in some traditional textiles crafts?“; and “From Tristram Shandy to Bad Sex: Some uses of mathematics in fiction“.

There’s a YouTube channel containing recordings of talks, but it doesn’t seem to have been updated since 2011.

Talks happen on the second Thursday of the month, during term time. The next talk is on the 9th of May, at the Institute of Education, where Michael Bartholomew-Biggs will be talking about maths and poetry. It’s just a pity they’re in London, or I’d go every month!

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Maths-Art Seminars at London Knowledge Lab

Art for a maths department

I don’t think the university maths department I work in has enough art in it. I have gazed covetously upon the walls of other departments I visit, covered with beautiful mathematically-inspired paintings and inspirational posters, serving as a backdrop to cabinets full of geometrical curiosities. I recently suggested to our Head of School that we could buy some art, and he said “That’s a good idea. Send me some suggestions.”

I was pretty delighted with that response, so I spent an enjoyable hour trawling the internet for art that would inspire and enrich our students and staff. We don’t really have anywhere obvious to put sculptures, so I wanted something you can hang on a wall. I had no idea how much money the Head of School was thinking of spending, so I assumed the worst and tried to stick to cheap posters and prints as a starting point. I wasn’t just looking for art – anything to decorate the walls, even if it ends up teaching the students something, is desirable.

My first port of call was my Arty Maths blog. I’ve been collecting nice bits of art that invoke or involve maths (and not art created purely to represent maths) for almost two years now. Unfortunately, it turns out I’ve almost exclusively been collecting sculptures and video works. That meant I had to do some googling!

Because I found some nice things, and in case anyone else is tasked with decorating a maths department and needs ideas, here’s what I found:

Hemisphere by Bálint Bolygó

Hemisphere by Bálint Bolygó

These drawings were made using a series of finely balanced pendulums that follow the curvature of the hemisphere and thus able to make intricate harmonic curves on the surface. By interacting with these self-built contraptions, the artist is able to build up a constellation of patterns on the hemispherical surface. The resulting objects are reminiscent of three-dimensional stellar maps or cosmological diagrams.

Hemisphere by Bálint Bolygó.

The Number Project, by Brandon Wilson

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Brandon Wilson is drawing a logo for a number each day this year. He started at 0 on the first of January, and he’ll finish with 365 on the first of January 2014 (or with 364 on the 31st of December. Not sure.) Sadly that means 367 – the largest number whose square’s digits form a strictly increasing sequence – misses out on a logo, but if your favourite number is a natural number at least a couple of units smaller than that, you’re in luck.

Brandon’s blog is NSFS — Not Safe For Synaesthetes — since numbers may appear different to how you imagine them.

More: The Number Project