Cascading Principles - a major mathematically inspired exhibition by Conrad Shawcross

Event date
28 Sep 2022 to 8 Oct 2023
Mathematical Institute
Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Woodstock Road
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Oxford Mathematics is delighted to be hosting one of the largest exhibitions by the artist Conrad Shawcross in the UK.

The exhibition, Cascading Principles: Expansions within Geometry, Philosophy, and Interference, brings together more than 35 sculptures realised by the artist over the last 17 years. The artworks are placed in public and private areas, forming a web of relationships which emerge as the viewer moves through the building.

Conrad Shawcross models scientific thought and reasoning within his practice. Drawn to mathematics, physics, and philosophy from the early stages of his artistic career, Shawcross combines these disciplines in his work. He places a strong emphasis on the nature of matter, and on the relativity of gravity, entropy, and the nature of time itself. Like a scientist working in a laboratory, he conceives each work as an experiment. Modularity is key to his process and many works are built from a single essential unit or building block. If an atom or electron is a basic unit for physicists, his unit is the tetrahedron.

Unlike other shapes, a tetrahedron cannot tessellate with itself. It cannot cover or form a surface through its repetition - one tetrahedron is unable to fit together with others of its kind. Whilst other shapes can sit alongside one another without creating gaps or overlapping, tetrahedrons cannot resolve in this way. Shawcross’ Schisms are a perfect demonstration of this failure to tessellate. They bring 20 tetrahedrons together to form a sphere, which results in a deep crack and ruptures that permeate its surface. This failure of its geometry means that it cannot succeed as a scientific model, but it is this very failure that allows it to succeed as an art work, the cracks full of broad and potent implications.

The show includes all Conrad's manifold geometric and philosophical investigations into this curious, four-surfaced, triangular prism to date. These include the Paradigms, the Lattice Cubes, the Fractures, the Schisms, and The Dappled Light of the Sun. The latter was first shown in the courtyard of the Royal Academy and subsequently travelled all across the world, from east to west, China to America.

The show also contains the four Beacons. Activated like a stained-glass window by the light of the sun, they are composed of two coloured, perforated disks moving in counter rotation to one another, patterning the light through the non-repeating pattern of holes, and conveying a message using semaphoric language. These works are studies for the Ramsgate Beacons commission in Kent, as part of Pioneering Places East Kent.

Cascading Principles: Expansions within Geometry, Philosophy, and Interference will be accompanied by a four-part symposium, with events taking place throughout the year of the exhibition. Researchers from Oxford Mathematics will be paired with artists and philosophers for talks that will foster cross-fertilisation of thought and creativity. The symposium series is organised in partnership with Modern Art Oxford and Ruskin School of Art, evoking the collaborative ethos of Conrad's artistic practice.

The exhibition Cascading Principles: Expansions within Geometry, Philosophy, and Interference is curated by Fatoş Üstek, and is organised in collaboration with Oxford Mathematics. It opens on 28 September and runs for one year.

The exhibition is generously supported by our longstanding partner XTX Markets.

From our news pages: Major mathematically-inspired Oxford exhibition - by acclaimed sculptor Conrad Shawcross | University of Oxford