Mathematics: Is it art?

Next in our exploration 'Is It Art?", Muslim Taseer and Gemma Powell debate whether mathematics can be assigned the category of art, or not.

multiple writers
20th October 2020

It might just be me, but I find there's a great deal of pleasure to be derived from a nicely done integration.

And what is art, but something a mind puts down that that another can appreciate, or derive pleasure from?

'Art' has no set meaning. The term is way too wide to really encompass what art has come to mean. Art is far too important to narrow into just visual art, as the dictionary definitions do. Anything a human mind produces with thought behind it, and with any potential for 'beauty' in even the most subjective form is Art. This definition infers that art will be best appreciated by those who understand it, an assertion that fits maths into the art camp quite confidently.

If you've studied Maths, you will know very well that feeling of satisfaction you get when you 'get' how a concept works, or when you finally figure out how to solve a tricky equation. This is indicative of the inherent beauty in every formula. You don't have to be a math whiz to appreciate that it's quite nifty that all these numbers follow concrete rules and have set relationships with each other. It's even niftier that these rules must always be true, and any breach of them would mean a breach in 'reality'.

Just as a painting of a nice sunset is a proof of the inherent beauty in sunsets, some equations are beautiful proofs of the laws that hold our universe together. There is math in everything, and it tells us why these things are the way they are. What's more beautiful than that?

Muslim Taseer

An Arts student is born during those trigonometry classes at 15 years old, when counting the minutes down on the clock seems more interesting than the lesson at hand. 

Mathematics is not beautiful like many mathematicians claim, it is the factual rules that hold a structure up or are reasons why something is. The art comes from the creative processes behind that. Even if you study a traditionally more academic arts subject, some level of creativity goes into the creation of your essays, spoken work or projects. 

Maths is an objective truth and for me, this stands in opposition to the whole idea of the arts being subjective. People may argue that the Fibonacci sequence goes on to create beautiful spiralling creations, both in nature and artificially. But it is not Fibonacci’s sequence of 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 and so on that is beautiful in itself; they are simply numbers on a page. It is how we perceive the spiral on a snail’s shell or the painted crashing wave that makes them beautiful, interesting or unique - not the facts behind them. 

Colour, texture and many other creative decisions that go into making the crashing wave is art too. Maths is something I have spent my years building my entire identity against. I’m an Arts student, unable to cope with manipulating numbers and proud of the subjectivity of my work.

Gemma Powell

Featured image: Wikimedia

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