Beauty is the First Test


The National Centre for Craft & Design is delighted to present a group exhibition that explores how mathematical concepts underpin craft techniques and artistic development. The exhibition attempts to demystify a subject that intimidates both adults and children, by showing craft techniques such as  knotting, interlacing, stitching, counting, hooking, measuring and cutting are all guided by mathematical theories. 

‘Beauty is the First Test’ draws together existing and new artworks focusing on textiles, sculpture and drawing to invite in-depth consideration of contemporary craft practice in this wider context. Beauty and playfulness will be evident in the exhibits to illustrate what delights craftspeople and maths geeks alike. The artists are of national and international importance and include Michael Brennand-Wood; Suresh Dutt; Janice Gunner; Lesley Halliwell; Lucy McMullen; Janette Matthews; Peter Randall Page; Ann Sutton and Laura Thomas. 

Alongside the artworks will be case studies of five makers: Gail Baxter, David Gates, Stella Harding, Carol Quarini and Margo Selby, examining how mathematical theory supports the development of their work. Sketches, maquettes and other materials will be displayed on furniture specially commissioned from David Gates. A film by Electric Egg is also in development. 

The title of the exhibition is drawn from an extended essay published in 1940 by accomplished mathematician G H Hardy, who declared: “The mathematician’s patterns, like the painter’s or the poet’s must be beautiful. The ideas, like the colours or the words must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics”. 

Beauty is the First Test is curated by Liz Cooper and has been supported by Arts Council England and Arts Council Northern Ireland. It has been developed in partnership with Crafts Council Crafts Club, Wandsworth Arts, Wandsworth Children’s Services and The National Centre for Craft & Design.


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