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Art and maths: New book says they are closer than you think

Eric J. Heller, Transport 2, ca. 2000. Digital print. Courtesy of the artist.

Art and mathematics have been linked since the Stone Age, when ancient humans etched symbols into rocks, searching for patterns in the world around them. Lynn Gamwell, a professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York, took on the formidable task of tracing the history of these intersections in the book Mathematics and Art: a Cultural History, published last month by Princeton University Press. She identifies the link between the Dutch theosophist MHJ Schoenmaekers and the painter Piet Mondrian as well as the influence of the English logician Bertrand Russell on the sculptor Henry Moore. Contemporary artists remain interested in “the structure of nature, of the cosmos, of ultimate reality”, Gamwell says. “You go to Chelsea and there are not exhibits about the Madonna and Child; there are exhibits about neutrons.”