Exhibition showcases the meeting of art and mathematics
'Hedrel' by Mark Francis, acrylic and oil canvas, courtesy of Kerlin Gallery, Dublin

The complex relationships and shared inspirations which connect art and mathematics will be explored during an exhibition being staged at Plymouth University.

Curated by art historian Barry Phipps, the exhibition in the Peninsula Arts Gallery will showcase the works of painter Mark Francis and architect George L. Legendre, both artist associates at the London Mathematical Society (LMS).

It will feature pieces based on conversations between the artists and renowned mathematicians, alongside those who influenced the work, as part of a scheme designed to celebrate the LMS’ 150th anniversary.

There will also be visual material created by the mathematicians, providing a glimpse of shared conversations between the disciplines, and finding a history, creativity and future common to both.

And the exhibition will be accompanied by the work of Plymouth University lecturer and filmmaker Heidi Morstang, who was commissioned by the LMS to work with Professor Martin Hyland to produce a 60-minute film about how mathematicians think. 

Barry Phipps, a Fellow of Churchill College at the University of Cambridge, said: 

“Pythagoras famously once said 'there is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres’ and, as the quote suggests, art and mathematics have a long historical relationship. For thousands of years artists, as well as mathematicians, have been interested in geometry. It is evident that mathematicians have been drawing and modelling geometric forms as a tool for investigating ideas for centuries, and for artists such forms have long been fertile ground for inquiry and inspiration."

The LMS, founded in 1865, marked its 150th Anniversary in 2015 and to commemorate the occasion, it launched a year-long programme of events aimed at celebrating the contributions of UK mathematics and mathematicians. The aim was to look back over 150 years of achievements and look forward to exciting opportunities in mathematics for future generations.

Within that were several events with a cultural twist, including the Artists Associates Scheme, which saw Mark Francis and George L. Legendre working with renowned mathematicians.

The exhibition presents the outcomes of conversations between the artists and mathematicians including Professor Sir Roger Penrose (University of Oxford), Dr Iain Moffatt (Royal Holloway University, London) and Dr Dorothy Buck (Imperial College, London). The exhibition also includes past work which informed the Artist Associates scheme.

Dr Sarah Chapman, Director of Peninsula Arts at Plymouth University, said: 

“Art has always had the power to transcend different disciplines, and it is fascinating to see it being used in this exhibition as a tool to unlock mathematical thought. It is also amazing to see another national exhibition coming to Plymouth University, bringing ground-breaking and challenging artists to the attention of new audiences here in the South West.”

For more information about visiting the exhibition, which runs from 9 April to 28 May in the Peninsula Arts Gallery, visit https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/whats-on/conversations-across-art-and-mathematics