Marc and Marion Chamberland

Myra Steele Professor of Mathematics
Grinnell College
Grinnell, Iowa, USA

We have long been enchanted by the aesthetic side of mathematics. Most people view mathematics as a collection of tools and procedures and get mired in the mechanics. Mathematical art communicates the essential beauty found in mathematics. As G. H. Hardy (1877-1947) wrote, "The mathematician's patterns, like the painter's or the poet's must be beautiful; the ideas, like the colors or the words must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in this world for ugly mathematics."

Kandinsky in Binary
Kandinsky in Binary
51 x 51 cm
2D framed image

The artist Wassily Kandinsky's captivating piece "Squares with Concentric Circles" is a study of color and geometry that arrests the viewer with its simplicity and beauty. This inspired our piece with 64 squares, each filled with six concentric circles. The squares represent the numbers zero to 63 in binary and thus indicate which rings are shaded. For example, the number 22 can be written as 16+4+2, so three of the rings are filled in. The colors in the rings, inspired by Kandinsky's color choices, form vertical and horizontal patterns because of the mathematical properties of numbers. Lastly, each square's shading is proportional to the number of filled rings.