Teachers Lesson Plans

Seeing Math in Art

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How does each artist approach painting?

Both Guido Molinari and Claude Tousignant were members of the Montreal Plasticiens. The Plasticiens rejected the emphasis placed on spontaneity and movement that was central to painting in the fifties. Instead, they promoted a more rational and structured approach to art. They were inspired by the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, and later by the American Barnett Newman. They sought to create paintings devoid of any illusion. They were called Plasticiens because of their rigorous insistence on the "plastic" elements, the painting's formal components. The group strove to use colour and geometric shapes in their purest forms and therefore explored visual relationships based on geometric form and vibrant colour contrasts.

Both Orange and Green Bi-serial and Chromatic Accelerator are abstract and ordered, governed by a rigorous geometry, where nothing is left to chance. Both artists used the wider range and faster drying colours available with the new acrylic paints. In applying the paint, both artists achieved smooth surfaces, with no rough patches or impasto. Both artists used masking tape to delineate the borders, thus making the works hard-edge and very even. Both artists regarded their paintings as objects, and not as windows opening on to a three dimensional space. Both works celebrate the power of colour, looking, and seeing and reflect living in the present.

The size and shape of each canvas is non-traditional. Tousignant's daring new shape, the circle, conforms to the notion of the painting as an object in its own right and not merely as a reflection of something else. Rings of concentric colours in circular paint create a vibrating effect of luminous colours. Tousignant's goal was to create paintings that had no "extraneous matter".

Perception is everything in Molinari's large format painting. He organizes the stripes and repeats the colours into careful sequences that create punctuated rhythms.

From a mathematical perspective, the two works divide an area using a linear division in the width. Although the divisions are the same distance apart for both the rectangle and the circle, being cut into pieces with the consistent width, the area varies with the circle and remains consistent with the rectangle. The choice of colour patterning and repetition is much more obvious when the area surfaces increase as the circumference increases.