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Axiomatic: The Creative Process in Art and Mathematics

Year of Funding: 
Abstract sculpture made from white porcelain and red plastic ties

Mathematics and art may appear to be diametrically opposite in both process and purpose: mathematics seeks truth while art seeks beauty. Yet mathematics, intellectually elegant and precise, is also beautiful. And art—irreverent to rules—is a method of exploring multiple and contradictory truths. Axiomatic is a crossdisciplinary collaborative research project led by mathematician Jayadev S. Athreya and visual artist Timea Tihanyi. Together, they aim to explore and demystify both disciplines by putting them conversation.

Our research centers on axioms, objects and concepts considered fundamental by various research fields in mathematics. We hope to peel away mathematical, philosophical, and utilitarian layers of this notion through visual art. An important part of our process is expanding the collaboration to researchers in various fields of mathematics, who are invited to share the idea they consider the most fundamental in their area of research.

New technologies, such as digital 3D design software and fabrication, make it possible to combine art and mathematics directly in novel and innovative ways. These technologies challenge traditional perceptions of the making process and the artist’s craft. Our project takes advantage of rapid prototyping methods available in the Washington Experimental Mathematics Lab and at the European Ceramic Work Center in the Netherlands. Additional support comes from a Milliman Award, the UW School of Art + Art History + Design, and a 2016 Art Projects award from 4Culture.

Our broader goal is to generate public discussion about the creative process in art and mathematics. In addition to our artwork, our project website will feature upcoming exhibitions, visual archives, and a series of podcast interviews with artists and scientists.

Upcoming Exhibitions


Primary Contacts

Jayadev Athreya (Mathematics)

Timea Tihanyi (School of Art)