abstract art, a systems view

Abstract painting and maths

with 10 comments

The Mathematics Institute at the University of Warwick has a number of abstract paintings on the walls. One of them is painted directly onto the wall.

This magnificent work by Ian Davenport entitled Everything, is the result of pouring paint (via a syringe) from the top of the wall, one stripe at a time. The colours run down the wall and form little pools on the ledge below.

Following a predetermined system Davenport seems to combine both control and chance, the colours taking the path set for them, yet sometimes meeting and mixing with others, their specific forms allowed rather than delineated.

There are smaller paintings than this, some of theme equally concerned with the process of painting, and with the “deliberately accidental”, Callum Innes‘s words for the process he adopts of dividing the canvas into two, painting a quarter with a flat colour leaving the other quarter exposed, and then taking the same colour and applying it to the other half of the canvas before “unpainting” it by rubbing it off with turpentine, leaving a ghost of the original colour.

Down the corridor from this painting is almost its opposite. A painting that has little interest in ghosts of paint, or even in paint that is flatly applied. Gillian Ayres‘ paint stands a couple of inches off the surface of the canvas, thick and physically present.

Apparently the mathematicians here are fond of the abstract paintings, and are surprised when we are surprised by that. “After all” they say “we are used to working with abstract concepts”

10 Responses

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  1. Thanks! A really interesting post. I’m impressed at the amount of good work hanging on the walls of Universities that you visit.


    February 7, 2012 at 5:24 pm

  2. I love how the colors in Everything” pool on the ledge. Thanks for sharing.


    February 7, 2012 at 8:41 pm

  3. […] the original post: Abstract painting and maths « patternsthatconnect Comments […]

  4. Thank you both for your comments.

    Yes isn’t it amazing what is in public collections in Universities? You have to go out of your way a bit to access them, and sometimes I feel a bit like I am not supposed to be there, but they are public colections and I get a very warm welcome when I go to see the painitngs. I especially like Warwick because the work is out there where work is actually being done. I think it is true that they have 800 artworks!
    They in the workplace.

    The way those colours collect together in pools is very attractive to me too. I have an almost childish fascination for it.

    Andy Parkinson

    February 8, 2012 at 6:58 am

  5. Nice art work. Its an interesting and beautiful painting.

    Oil Paintings

    February 8, 2012 at 10:42 am

  6. Very cool! Especially the pools at the bottom of Everything…


    February 8, 2012 at 6:41 pm

  7. “Deliberately accidental” reminds me of seeing a room full of Jackson Pollock’s work at MOMA when we visited New York last Spring. People have this impression of Pollock throwing the paint at the canvas randomly, but if you look closely you see it was very controlled and “deliberately accidental”.

    notes to the milkman

    May 27, 2012 at 7:07 pm

  8. Both artists are fantastic – Guess I missed this post being in Mexico at the time – thank you for passing these on…


    May 30, 2012 at 8:53 am

  9. The Davenport and Innes works easily fit the stereotype of mathematical or at least ordered and intellectual, but the Ayres painting is not as straightforward. I once knew a fellow who specialised in astro-physics and creative writing. Science and arts – not far apart really. Pure science is about creativity I think.


    May 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm

  10. Wow! thanks all for your comments. Yes, Zorogor I love those pools too, and thanks notes to the milkman for the connection to Jackson Pollock, Clinock for you appreciation of these artists, and seascapesaus for your take on the Gillian Ayres. I agree with you that even when the work looks highly spontaneous (deliberately accidental) it probably has more resonance with maths or science than we may have once thought.

    Andy Parkinson

    June 1, 2012 at 3:07 pm

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