Phil Webster

Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Since a very early age, I have had a powerful and inescapable fascination with order, symmetry, and pattern. For these reasons, my artistic pursuits have always centered around the innate beauty found in mathematics, especially tesselations, polyhedra, and fractals.

While there is great beauty and pleasure to be found in pure mathematical shapes, to me the “art” of geometric art is to find novel ways of combining shapes, forms, and concepts in ways that go beyond the basic. In this way I move beyond simple discovery into the realm of novelty and creativity.

Thus, I am forever blending, swapping, and rearranging elements to see what I can invent. Polyhedra, fractals, crop circles, Celtic knots, plane tilings… these are the raw materials that I stir into my artistic stew. Since traveling to India in 2012, I have been particularly focused on blending traditional Islamic motifs with polyhedra and fractals. The results are distinctly Islamic in flavor but with a modern twist.

Islamic Fractal Star and Flower
Islamic Fractal Star and Flower
16" x 24" x 4"
Laser cut black acrylic with 3D printed base

This sculpture in two parts explores the same fractal Islamic pattern in two directions, inward and outward. The pattern is theoretically infinite in either direction, but the width of the bands limits the shapes to just a few levels of recursion. By constructing the star and flower at identical scales and with identical band widths, I invite the viewer's eyes to move seamlessly between the two shapes, noticing the alignments and variations between the two. In particular, an identical ring of eight rosettes appears near the outside of the star and around the central rosette of the flower. Look long enough and you will see shapes emerging at all different sizes and angles – squares, octagons, and stars, to name a few.

I derived this pattern by blending a fractal arrangement of eight-fold stars with a classic Islamic eight-fold rosette motif. The resulting geometries are reminiscent of hyperbolic projections or inversions through circles, but are actually different from both.

Screened Icosahedron
Screened Icosahedron
4" x 4" x 4"
3D printed nylon

The Screened Icosahedron was created by applying a traditional, hexagon-based Islamic pattern to the faces of an icosahedron, widening the bands slightly, and removing the material between the bands. The result is a delicate, intricate shape that invites study. It should be viewed from all angles, and from far and near, to fully appreciate all of its aspects.

This shape was inspired by the many carved stone screens I saw in the forts and palaces of Rajasthan province in India, and it evokes the complexity and mystery of those places. The stone screens were originally created to shield the maharanis (princesses) from the view of other men. Hopefully, since it can be held in one's hand, this shape inspires a sense of liberation rather than one of captivity.

20" x 16"
Digital print on acrylic

Pulsation is the result of an intensive exploration into creating fractal patterns composed of traditional Islamic motifs. This piece is based on classic eight-fold rosette motifs, which have been carefully arranged, scaled, and connected with interstitial shapes to create a continuous pattern. The underlying symmetry grid of the pattern is one of isosceles right triangles. Around half of the vertices, the rosettes scale up to their largest size, and around the alternate vertices, the rosettes diminish to infinity.

Coloring the rosettes in continuous shades from light to dark to light emphasizes the continuous inward and outward movement from point to point, and creates a sense of visual vibration. The resulting pattern can be seen as part star, part tunnel, part web, and part flower.