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Symmetry

48 49 A pAssion for pAttern the perennial appeal of repeating designs Pattern arises almost of itself from any repeated operation such as knitting, weaving, brickwork, tilework, etc., but patterning has often become an integral part of a cultures stylistic conventions in its own right. In fact, although most cultures have used pattern as part of their decorative repertoire, some, at different periods and in different parts of the world, seem to have become positively fixated on patterning as a mode of artistic expression. The complex varieties of Islamic pattern are wellknown, but there have been equally strong traditions in the Celtic world, in Mesoamerica, and in Byzantium, Japan and Indonesia. Even those of us from cultures that are not so patternobsessed are perfectly capable of appreciating repeated ornament. It has a certain universality. One way or another, regular patterning always involves a measuring out of the space available to be decorated. Because of this, the artist, knowingly or otherwise, is bound to engage with the rules governing the symmetrygroups of plane division see Appendix. In practice, however, these limitations are not so much a constraint on design as a further opportunity to introduce variety. Interestingly, at least two artistic traditions, those of Ancient Egypt and Islam, came fairly close to using all 17 classes of planar patterns. The unconscious, but systematic exploration of symmetry groups in this way would seem to blur the distinction between the artistic activity of pattern creation and that of science, whose entire enterprise could be characterised as pattern detection.
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