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Friday 1st December 2017

Isaac Newton Institute

United Kingdom

Friday 1st December 2017, Cambridge



New mathematical approaches, such as shape analysis and computational anatomy, can be applied to growth and form in a variety of complex living and inanimate systems. Mathematical tools have the capacity to revolutionise a whole range of inter-disciplinary problems, from image analysis to medical diagnosis, from study of paintings to mechanical toys and games.
Indeed, mathematical approaches, including those of nonlinear dynamics, chaos theory, fractal analysis, fluid dynamics and fluid-structure interactions, have, in recent decades, been brought to bear on a whole range of cross disciplinary problems, until recently outside the scope of physics: from visual to performing arts and from children’s puzzles to physical aspects of sport.
The emergence of form in art and the properties and role of form in finished artworks includes the mathematical and physical aspects of artistic processes and techniques. These issues are at the interface between science and art. Applications of physics and mathematical analysis to art is still a novel field of research, although a growing number of physicists and applied mathematicians have been studying artmaking, particularly various painting techniques, and art objects themselves.
This knowledge exchange event was delivered by the TGM as part of the Isaac Newton Institute Research Programme on Growth Form and Self-organisation.  The Programme coincided with the 100th anniversary of the book by d’Arcy Thompson, whose elegant analysis of shapes of organisms and their mechanical characteristics brought the tools of mathematics and physics to the study of living systems - effectively enlarging the scope of both fields. This workshop therefore brought together mathematicians, biologists and physicists from both the research and industrial communities.

Art Exhibition

Delegates had the opportunity to see an exhibition entitled 'Form in Art - Art of Form' which included works by leading contemporary artists who employ physics phenomena in their artistic processes, engage themes related to science, or in some manner explore form. 

Aims and Objectives

Mathematicians and scientists who work on the physical aspects of art, on the art-making processes, and on the physics of toys, often work individually or in small groups disconnected from one another. This workshop aimed to extend the reach of the Isaac Newton Institute Research Programme, by fostering exchange between different groups of researchers and practitioners and established links between researchers pursuing different diversions and began forming a community.
This event focused on form and deformation in art, toys and games. However, the mathematical approaches which were highlighted also have generic appeal and were relevant to a broader range of industry and application areas, including engineering, healthcare, chemicals, materials, security and analytics.
The Programme included two overview talks by an art historian and a mathematician, followed by a series of more focused presentations organised into two main sessions:

  • Form in Art
  • Form in Toys and Games.

These talks highlighted how mathematicians and physicists might think about art and helped to explain some of the links between art and science. The talks included end user presentations from those working in the toy making and gaming and film industries.
It was expected to bring together industrial and academic experts from a diverse set of backgrounds including mathematics, physics, and biology, with those looking at animation art, image processing, computer vision and visual art.

Registration and Venue

Attendance was free. The workshop took place at the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Cambridge.