Random Art

John D Barrow is a Fellow of the Royal Society and has been Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge since 1999, carrying out research in mathematical physics, with special interest in cosmology, gravitation, and particle physics. He is the author of over 420 articles and 19 books, translated in 28 languages, a number of which deal with the relationship between art, maths and science. This article is taken from his latest book ‘100 Essential Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Maths and the Arts’.

Random art has many motivations. It may be a reaction to classical artistic style, the desire to explore pure colour, an attempt at seeing what can emerge from a composition in the minds of the viewer, or simply an experiment with new forms of artistic expression. Despite the appealing absence of rules and constraints about what (if anything) goes on the canvas and how, this form of art has produced a number of surprisingly well-defined genres. The most famous are those of Jackson Pollock and Piet Mondrian. They both have particular mathematical features, with Pollock’s apparent use of scale-invariant fractal patterning and Mondrian’s primary-coloured rectangles.


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