- On My Visual Numerical Artworks
- Leonardo
- The MIT Press
- Volume 11, Number 3, Summer 1978
- pp. 221-222
- Article
- View Citation
- Additional Information

Leonardo, Vol. 11, pp. 221-222. 0 Pergamon Press Ltd. 1978. Printed in Great Britain. 0024-094X/78/0701-422l u)Z.OO/O ON MY VISUAL NUMERICAL ARTWORKS Chris Watts* 1. Introduction Prior to 1970much of my artwork could be classified as reliefs of a constructivist type. Some involved the use of coloured rods and coloured planes (Fig. 1). Towards the end of the 1960s I began to doubt whether the information I wished to communicate was sufficiently accessibleto viewersin the reliefsand decidedto abandon them in favour of pictures in which the symbols 0 to 9 of the decimal number system are arranged according to certain rules. Such pictures have been made by numerous artists in the past. When digits or numbers are arranged to give meaning in terms of numbers and to provide visual aesthetic satisfaction because of the manner of presentation of their arrangement, the pictures have been called visual numerical art [l]. The advantage of arabic number symbols is that their significanceis widelyknown and unusual properties of some of their arrangements in rows and columns can be recognized with some effort. A simpleexampleof the latter is the 3 x 3array of numbers in a magicsquarein which the sum of the numbers in each row and column and in the two major diagonals add up to the same sum. In more complex arrays arranged to demonstrate other mathematical properties of numbers, unexpected properties can sometimes be discovered. Discussionsof theseaspectscan be found in Refs. 1and 2. 2. T h r e e examples of my numerical artworks The examples of my numerical artworks that I discuss here are limited to the use of the sequence of digits 0 to 9 arranged in linesparallel to the diagonal passing from the bottom left comer to the top right comer of a square array (Figs. 24). The numbering begins with 0 in the upper left corner. The first line reading down to the left has two digits: 1,2. The next line reads upwards: 3,4, 5; the next downwards: 6,7,8,9; the next upwards: 0,1,2,3, 4 ;etc. T h i snumbering is continued until there are zeroes at all four comers. In this case one obtains a 100 x 100 array. This array of 10,000 digits satisfies the aesthetic requirements that I had set-namely, (1) that the array is a square,(2)that thedigit0is locatedateach of thecorners and (3)that the total number of digits be a multiple of 10. The completed picture (Fig. 2) displays lines of diminisheddensityslopingdownward from left to right, a consequence of repeating digits (especially 1 and 7) that occupy a relatively small area of the unit square in which each is printed. If one examines the array carefully, repeating digital patterns can be discerned. Fig. I. ‘Blackon White’,relief.painted wood, 60 x 60 x 12cm, 1969. (Collection of Mr. Walpole-Davis, Washington, D.C., USA.). *Artist and teacher, 5 Warren Lane Dartington Hall, Totnes TQ9 6EG, England. (Received 8 Oct. 1977) Fig.2. Untitled,visual numerical artwork. silk-screenprint. 59 x 59 cm, 1976. (Collection of the Arts Council of Great Britain). 221 D 222 Chris Wutts Fig. 3. Untitled. visual numerical artwork. drawing on silk-screen print, 59 x 59cm, 1976.(Collection of the Arts Council of Great Britain). The picture in Fig. 3 is the seventh in a series of 11 in which certain digits are blacked out. In this case, only the unit squares occupied by the digits 6, 7, 8 and 9 are not blacked out. The picture in Fig. 4 is the fourth in a series of four in which the location of two repeating sequences of digits is emphasized. The sequences of 20 digits indicated at the right end of the top row and the left end of the bottom row are, respectively: 0, I, 5,6,4,5,7,8,4,5,5,6,0, I, 9,0,2,3, 9,0;0, 1, 7, 8,0, 1,9,0,4, 5, 5, 6,2, 3, 5, 6, 4, 5,9,0. The upper and lower grids in Fig. 4 are executed in grey to facilitate the location of the...

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