Mathematical Recreations; July 1999; Scientific American Magazine; by Stewart; 3 Page(s)
Mathematics and art have many points of contact, but none is more beautiful than the concept of symmetry. The mathematician's approach to symmetry is a little too rigid for most forms of visual art, but it can be readily applied to any art form that features repetitive patterns. Wallpaper, fabrics and tiles are familiar examples, and all of them can rise to great artistic heights. Tiles and wallpaper designed by 19th-century British artist William Morris are displayed in London's Victoria and Albert Museum. The Edo-Tokyo Museum possesses some absolutely outstanding examples of patterned kimonos, and the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain, is renowned worldwide for its intricate tiled patterns.
Although the basic mathematics of symmetry and tilings was worked out long ago, new discoveries continue to be made, often by artists. Rosemary Grazebrook, a contemporary British artist, has invented a remarkably simple tiling system that is eminently practical and different enough from the usual rectangular tiles to be interesting. It is also ingenious and, in the right hands, beautiful.