Geometry has been a powerful influence for artists for many centuries. The visual beauty and order that exists within geometric forms and shapes have lent artists the tools for recreating the natural world’s structured elements. While abstract art is a relatively new phenomenon, the use of geometry and mathematical planning can be seen in art over the centuries.
Perspective drawing is an excellent example of how geometric form is manipulated by artists to guide your eyes on their desired path. Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” is a great example of this tool. In his piece, Christ is seated in the centre of the table, located at the centre of the painting, while his companions are placed equally on either side of him, leaning slightly away from him. While everyone is looking toward Christ, he is looking forward so that we can look directly into his eyes. Perspective drawing therefore uses geometry in its simplest form to direct the audience and to create a structure to the work.
While this style of realist art applied geometric techniques, later styles of art emerged that took the incorporation of mathematical elements in their art to a whole new level. A new age of expressionism, surrealism, cubism, and futurism was embraced in the art world. These new styles challenged traditional methods by shifting the focus away from standard depictions of reality. Instead, in an attempt to revitalize old and tired art traditions, cubism and futurism focused on representing reality in its purest and simplest form. This movement allowed for a huge shift in perception and interpretation in the art pieces themselves. Rather than the artist telling you what they want you to see and feel in their painting, the artists have given the onus to the audience. These works are not limited by the artists’ emotions, but can be accessible and evocative of any emotion or memory.
Cubism, made famous by artists such as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, kick-started the emergence of abstraction. While cubism and futurism focused on lines, patterns and colour to evoke a memory of something tangible, abstraction eliminated elements of perspective or physical reality, and focused solely on the impact of geometric shapes and patterns. Geometric abstract art, which can be seen in many of Jackson Pollock’s works, takes the elements of reality away and relies heavily on the use of repeated patterns to evoke an emotional experience.
In Artlink Canada’s upcoming exhibition, “Edge of Perception”, artist Ben Gooding focuses on the use of repeated simple patterns to express the incredible complexity contrived by a simple geometric shape. His works are evocative of the intricate qualities of the natural and cosmological world. Gooding often begins his pieces with an uncalculated and spontaneous line or pattern. From this, he then builds the mathematically calculated piece of work up by repeating that same pattern hundreds of times over. Gooding describes his final product as a representation of the highly methodical and deterministic nature of the process involved in the creation of the piece. Geometric abstraction has moved far beyond conventional realism and has embraced the idea of allusion over representation.