Raymond Brownell is one of a select group of artists whose work is informed by mathematics.
Raymond was born in Tasmania, and worked as an architect, having been involved with the Sydney Opera House. He now lives in Sussex and is a successful painter. His work uses mathematical ideas such as combinations, Latin squares, Fibonacci numbers and the golden ratio. While the mathematics suggests an idea which is worked out in the painting, the choice of colours and arrangement of shapes calls for serious artistic input.
A recent painting, for example, is entitled “17 colours, each adjoining every other twice”. From front on and close up, the bright acrylic colours make a pleasant pattern in their harlequin shapes; but view the painting from the side, and something very different happens: a living shape seems to be breathed out from the brightest colours. Incindentally, this painting could be executed on a torus (if the harlequin shapes were tilted a bit), and what a sight that would be!
I think it is very likely that the pictures contain things which go beyond even what the artist planned. The picture on the invitation to Raymond’s latest exhibition, for example, uses four colours; each square of the picture has one colour on a quarter and another on the rest; all twelve permutations of two colours, each in all the four possible orientations, occur, leaving one square in the middle of the picture, which is left blank. There are just two places where a row ofthree squares of fixed background colour has the background forming a connected set; these cracker-like shapes rotate around the square. Of each pair with a given background colour, one has a single foreground colour, the other has three different foreground colours.
Raymond has thought deeply about his art. He spoke to the Pure Mathematics seminar at Queen Mary a few years ago; the abstract is here (but does not include the striking illustrations which he used in the talk).
The exhibition, entitled “A road less travelled”, is at the Great Expectations Gallery in Denmark Hill, South London. Along with information about the artist, the exhibition features the cover page and a short extract from the CRC Handbook of Combinatorial Designs, edited by Charles Colbourn and Jeff Dinitz. (The picture “An elusive symmetry, No.2”, the large pink-and-blue picture on the left of the exhibition page, is based on a self-orthogonal Latin square with cyclic symmetry, which Raymond discovered himself: can you see how?)