February 25, 2014 | 3
Art and science are often thought of as disparate entities, drawing on different strengths and different ways of thinking. This is surely true, but the disciplines also share patterns of thought and essential characteristics. Take, for example, their inherently collaborative processes. No artist creates in a vacuum just as no scientists could perform the work that they do without the research that came before.
In this manner, it is illuminating to see Anita Chowdry’s shamsa collection inspired by the Islamic manuscript arts, but brought into a this century with the application of modern mathematical concepts, technology, and materials. Her series of shamsas (from the Arabic word for sun) are based on elements from traditional hand-painted Islamic manuscripts from the 15th through 17th centuries in Mughal India and Savafid Iran. In these royal manuscripts the first page was traditionally adorned with an elaborate medallion, meticulously hand-painted with mineral pigments and precious metals.
While studying the techniques used to paint these intricate sunbursts, Chowdry noticed the patterns are strongly reminiscent of fractal geometry and the famous images produced by Benoit Mandelbrot’s research on the topic in the late 1970s and 1980s. Upon realizing this, she embarked upon a journey to incorporate her knowledge of the ancient art of manuscript illustration with modern mathematical concepts and technology. The result is a spectacular collection of images and objects:
If you’re curious about the type of original artwork that inspired Chowdry’s project, here are some beautiful examples I dug up in my own explorations for this post:
-a rosette from 17th-century India at the Met
-a Persian rug from the Savafid period (that sold at auction for $1.93 million!) displaying a motif reminiscent of the Julia Set (look just above the bird in the detail image)
-a Tedx talk by Yale professor Michael Frame on fractals in math and in nature