When mathematics and art collaborate

Dennis Miller’s “point.line.plane.”

By Cate McQuaid Globe Correspondent 

The artists in “Mathematics and Art: Searching for Pattern,” at Suffolk University Gallery, range from math geeks passionate about envisioning algorithms to painters who use math and pattern as guidelines. The geeks’ art has more dazzle and crispness; the art by others is softer, more open-ended, and ultimately more inviting.

Two who fall in the middle of the spectrum have the most success: Gregory Gomez and Kawandeep Virdee, both best known for public art.


Gomez’s work usually starts with a field of points. Here he paints circuits of dots joined by lines — an image of consistency — then disrupts the circuits with an industrial sandblaster. For Gomez, it’s all about that disruption. Flaws make perfection approachable.

Virdee’s public art is high tech, but his painting “Black Pentagonal Tiling with Variations on Orange” was not computer programmed. The hand-painted network of black lines over an orange field expands and contracts like a fishing net in water. As with Gomez, the imperfection and variation captivate.

We crave pattern; we structure our lives around it. But ruptures in the pattern draw us just as much — perhaps because we are all too aware of our own inconsistencies.

There’s something breathtaking in the intricacies of the math-minded artists. Dennis Miller’s animation “point.line.plane” — the title references “Point and Line to Plane,” Kandinsky’s treatise on visual grammar — follows each form in turn as it spreads exponentially, flowing and wheeling across the screen. Similarly, 3-D prints by Phil Webster and Bathsheba Grossman astonish with their geometric complexity.

An illustration of a mathematical concept, such as Grossman’s “Schwartz’ D-Surface,” adds up to art only if it reflects some pattern of our own existence. This sphere, filled with porous passages, could be a picture of the winding runnels of consciousness. A flaw might ruin the system’s perfect symmetry. But that, too, would be a picture of consciousness, and perhaps a more accurate one.

Searching for Pattern


At Suffolk University Gallery,

75 Arlington St., through
Jan. 22. 617-994-4283,

Cate McQuaid can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.