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Math Art: Complex Tessallations

October 21, 2019

During assembly on Monday, October 21, JBS math teacher Paul Salomon '02 described how seemingly chaotic art is actually very structured. He showed several works by Australian-born architect and artist Richard Hassell and Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher. These artworks combine art, science and mathematics.

Salomon said earlier this year, Burroughs received a Hassell artwork "Order & Complexity I" which hangs in the Math Department wing. Acquisition of the piece was made possible by an estate gift by the late Teri Barry who taught math at Burroughs during the early 90s. Salomon pointed out the small creatures (turtle, frog and fish) repeated in a series of squares and triangles combined in three different ways on a plane. He then showed several Escher graphics that demonstrate the same kind of gradual metamorphosis of patterns, built out of platonic tiles. Largely inspired by Escher, Hassell extended the Dutchman's work into new mathematics discovered after Escher's death.

In "Order & Complexity III," Hassell spilled over and under the squares. The small creatures have a charge, positive or negative, and when put together have an overall charge of zero, resulting in no gaps or overlaps.

Salomon encouraged students to follow Hassell on Instagram and invited them to drop by the MakerSpace to try their hand at building these complex tessellations!

NOTE: While not offered this school year, Salomon teaches a Mathematical Art course for upper school students.